Monday, August 8, 2011

Kiplagat leads hunt for elusive 1,500m crown

Mohammed Amin | nation Commonwealth 1,500 metres champion Silas Kiplagat (left) gets instructions from Kenya’s track and field head coach Peter Mathu at the Moi international Sports Centre, Kasarani, on August 08, 2011.

Mohammed Amin | nation Commonwealth 1,500 metres champion Silas Kiplagat (left) gets instructions from Kenya’s track and field head coach Peter Mathu at the Moi international Sports Centre, Kasarani, on August 08, 2011.  

By JONATHAN KOMEN  [email protected]

It remains a riddle as to whether or not Kenya can win its maiden men’s 1,500 metres gold medal at this month’s World Championships in Athletics in Daegu, South Korea.

Commonwealth Games 1,500m champion, Silas Kiplagat, could well rise up and quench Kenya’s 28-year thirst for gold in this race at the global athletics bonanza.

Kiplagat, who takes a brilliant 3:30.47 world leading time to Daegu, will spearhead the battle for Kenya’s quest for gold.

The 22-year-old Kiplagat, who had last seasons’ world leading time of 3:29.27, has two wins in his legs at the Diamond League Meetings in Monaco and Oslo.

The alumnus of Chebara Secondary School in Marakwet was too good for a stellar line up at the national trials last month where he was the show-stopper, beating Olympic 1,500m champion Asbel Kiprop (3:31.39) and former World Indoor 1,500m silver medallist Daniel Kipchirchir Komen (3:32.47) at the Nyayo National Stadium. Kiprop and Komen are also in Kenya’s 1,500m line up.

Kiplagat is guided by three-time world 3,000m steeplechase champion, Moses Kiptanui, in Eldoret.

The confident-speaking Kiplagat said: “I want to become a number one to win the 1,500m gold medal for Kenya. I am hoping to bring it home and I only target to sail through the semi-finals. I only pray God for a good health.”

Kenya has recorded impressive performances in 1,500m at the Olympics with little showing at the Worlds.

Gold medallists Kipchoge Keino (Mexico 1968), Peter Rono (Seoul 1988) and Noah Ngeny (Sydney 2000) are the legendary runners who stamped Kenya’s authority in the four-lap race at the Games.

Kiplagat expects stiff opposition from Kenyan-born American and world silver medallist Bernard Lagat, Mehdi Baalla (France), Africa 1,500m silver medallist Amin Laalou (Morocco) and Belal Masoor of Bahrain (formerly John Yego of Kenya).

Ethiopia’s trio of World Indoor champion Deresse Mekonen, IAAF Continental Cup silver medallist Mekonnen Gebremedhin and Zebene Alemayeh are also in medal contention.

The Prisons warder boasts a 3:29.27 personal best mark that he posted at the inaugural Diamond League Meeting in Monaco last season while USA’s former Kenyan Bernard Lagat has a 3:26.34 he posted in Brussels in 2001.

Mekonnen Gebremedhin and Deresse Mekonnen have 3:31.57 and 3:33.10 personal bests respectively.

Defending champion, Abubaker Ali Kamel (3:36.98), is also in contention. Kiplagat, who braved numerous hardships in an impoverished family before taking up running, stunned the world when he led Olympic champion Kiprop at the Monaco Diamond League meeting before romping to victory at the Delhi Commonwealth Games.

“The two wins at Diamond League meetings motivated me so much. The competitions and the Commonwealth Games victory have given me the experience,” said Kiplagat, who trains under Italian track and field agent Gianni Demadonna in Eldoret.

Kiplagat, who was a football player while in secondary school, pays glowing tribute to world half marathon sensation Sammy Kitwara, who inspired him to run.

“Kitwara saw me training at home and liked how I ran. He offered to take me with him to Eldoret where I would live with him as I continued training and provided me with running kits. He is my role model.”

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