Metric mile man Kiplagat set for ultimate glory
Posted Friday, July 20 2012 at 23:30
- Kenya’s three runners in the 1,500m own the three fastest times set over the distance this year
The London Olympic Games 1,500m may very well be a Kenyan affair.
Kenya boasts of the best men’s 1,500m runners this season.
By virtue of their astute performances, Commonwealth champion Silas Kiplagat, Olympics and World champion Asbel Kiprop and Nixon Chepseba have the leading times this year.
Kiplagat, the World 1,500m silver medallist, outclassed Kiprop in the Diamond League’s opening leg of Doha on May 11 with both posting the fastest times this season of 3:29.63 and 3:29.78. While Kiplagat boast of a Personal Best 3:29.27 from Monaco 2010, Kiprop’s time in Doha emerged his PB.
In May 2012, Chepseba won the 1,500m at the Hengelo meet in a new PB 3:29.90, making him the eighth fastest over the distance in Kenyan history.
Kiplagat, who won the 2010 Commonwealth Games 1,500m title, said he was not going to sleep on his own laurels because he understood that championships races were prone to major surprises.
Kiplagat said they had a good opportunity to replicate Kenya’s steeplechase performance at the 2004 Olympic Games and advised his colleagues to strive and make it to the finals. Ezekiel Kemboi, Brimin Kipruto and Paul Kipsiele Koech swept the podium places at the 2004 Athens Summer Games.
“It goes without saying that we have the best metric mile attack going into London. Personally, this is the best season ever as my progress speaks for itself,” Kiplagat said. “However, we are not sleeping on our laurels since we are also aware of the task ahead. It will be catastrophic if we only focus on ourselves.”
Kiplagat explained that the heats, especially the semi-finals are the most challenging since that is where tragedies occur. “We must all fight to be in the final and then embrace team work until the last lap. It will need mental and physical preparedness since everybody is eying to reach the final.”
Saying their rivalry was healthy, Kiplagat explained that he is determined to erase the memories and mistakes that cost him the World title last year in Daegu with victory in London. Kiplagat broke from the pack at the bell but was overtaken by Kiprop and his efforts to chase in the last 1,500m proved futile.
“We are friends outside but rivals on track and that is what will spur a good show from us. Since I am without a major, I want to win these Olympics and then target the Worlds next year,” said Kiplagat, who plans to dedicate his victory to his coach Moses Kiptanui. It is Kiptanui who pulled Kiplagat from playing soccer to the world of athletics.
Kiptanui is the three-time World 3,000m steeplechase champion in addition to winning silver at the 1996 Olympics.
Kiplagat, who wants to celebrate his 23rd birthday on August 20 with an Olympic gold medal is keen to see how his team-mates Kiprop and Chepseba perform today in Monaco. Kiplagat tested his strength to win the mile race at London Grand Prix last Friday in 3:52.44.
Kiptanui has been Kiplagat’s mentor since embracing athletics upon finishing his secondary education at Chebara High School, Marakwet in 2007.
“My friends advised me to try athletics since I used to run fast and dribble fast as a striker at the provincial championships,” said Kiplagat, who was then introduced to Kiptanui by long distance runner Sammy Kitwara and Geoffrey “Lochumba” Kipkeu in 2008.
“Kiptanui refined my awful running tactics and skills and above all instilled the importance of patience, discipline and hard work that makes a good athlete. He might have failed to win an Olympic title but I want to do it for him.”