Saturday, March 6, 2010

‘Land Cruiser’ sees no worthy rival in Doha

By JONATHAN KOMEN

Africa 1,500 metres champion Haron “Land Cruiser” Keitany will lead Kenya’s men’s charge at the 13th IAAF World Indoor Championships in Doha this weekend.

Gideon Gathimba, second to Keitany at the 2008 African Athletics Championships in Addis Ababa, will also line up for Kenya in the seven-and-a-half-lap race on the shorter indoor track when the two-day games get under way on Friday.

The race should be an indoor re-enactment of the Addis final where the two Kenyans went up against Ethiopia’s Deresse Mekonnen. The duo stunned the continent when they showed little respect to the Ethiopian and forced him to miss the podium place after he finished fourth at home.

Keitany the “Land Cruiser”, as his peers call him for his consistency and strength, suffered a career-threatening calf injury that sidelined him from the final of last year’s World Championships in Berlin. But he says he still has no competitor in sight other than Mekonnen though he expects a stellar line-up in the Qatari capital.

‘Helped me to win’

“Gathimba helped me to win the gold medal against Mekonnen in Berlin and his inclusion to the World Indoors 1,500m team was a God-send. Our Addis Ababa strategy will work well. But we too have other tactics in store,” said Keitany, who took up running in the senior ranks two years after he completed Form Four in 2003 at Anasens High School in Wareng District.

“The only way to counter him [Mekonnen] is to employ a behind-the-pack tactic in a bid to study his moves from the back. I do not like storming into the lead but I must ensure we react at once. Now that I have recovered from injury, I won’t allow him a breathing space,” Keitany added.

Keitany, who shook off the nagging injury while competing at the two international events in addition to the 2006 Commonwealth Games in Australia, said he was proud to romp home victorious in Ethiopia despite the injury. The Land Cruiser makes a date with Mekonnen in Doha ahead Africa Senior Athletics Championships in Nairobi this July.

“I did not run against Mekonnen in Berlin and I think he is preparing to revenge in Doha. I also expect a challenge from [former Kenyan] Bernard Lagat of USA. I have raced with him [Lagat] once and beat him,” said Keitany, a sixth-born in a family of 10.

Keitany said he pulled out of Saturday’s Indoor meeting in Pas de Calais, Lievin, France, in order to save energy to battle the classy field in the oil-rich Gulf nation. After finishing second and beating world champion Abubakker Kamel of Bahrain (formerly Gregory Konchella of Kenya) to fifth place, Keitany was out of the finals action.

Keitany trains under a Belgian manager and is coached by Amos Korir at Eldoret’s Golazo Athletics Club. Commonwealth Games 5,000m champion Augustine Choge, world 5,000m title holder Vivian Cheruiyot and silver medallist Sylvia Kibet are among the seven Kenyan runners picked to run in Doha.

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