Abraham Cheruiyot Tarbei reckons the changes introduced in his races will not stop him from achieving his dream of another Paralympics double at the London Summer Games.
Tarbei joined the league of Henry Kirwa and Henry Wanyoike as the only other Kenyans with multiple gold medals from a single edition of the Paralympics.
At the 2008 Beijing Paralympics, Tarbei won the 1,500 metres and 5,000m T46 races and is out to defend his 1,500m title this year and to add the newly-introduced 800m gold to his titles. The 800m race has now replaced the 5,000m event.
Wanyoike won the 5,000m and 10,000m titles at the 2004 Athens Paralympics and Kirwa followed it up with a hat-trick in 1,500m, 5,000m and 10,000m in Beijing, making him the first Kenyan to accomplish the feat.
Tarbei’s double from Beijing earned him Sh4.5m in cash awards, turning his life around.
“They may have changed the races, but I’m more experienced now,” said Tarbei, adding that one must get his tactics right to win the 5,000m and 1,500m races.
He is familiar with the 800m race, having won the two-lap race on his debut at the 2009 London Grand Prix. Unlike in Beijing where the athlete from Nandi battled a tight schedule in the 1,500m and 5,000m qualifiers, the London schedule is evenly spread out.
The 25-year-old whose hands were deformed as a toddler following a fire incident will team up with Jonah Chesum and Stanley Cheruiyot in the 800m and 1,500m events.
New beginning in life
Success in Beijing marked a new beginning in life for Tarbei. Like other Paralympians, he went on to benefit from the government’s cash award scheme which had been started after the 2007 All Africa Games.
“I have been able to support my family, pay school fees for my children and to invest in tea plantations and real estate in Kapsabet.
Tarbei, who is targeting the 2016 Paralympics in Brazil, made his international debut for Kenya at the 2003 All Africa Games in Abuja, finishing fourth in 800m and ran in the 400m final at the 2006 Commonwealth Games.
His moment of glory came when he won the 1,500m and 5,000m at the 2006 World Championships in the Netherlands and went on to win gold in 1,500m and 5,000m at the 2007 All Africa Games in Algiers, a feat which earned him Sh600,000 from the government.
This set the stage for his success in Beijing and at the 2009 World Championships in New Zealand as well as the 2010 Africa Championships in Morocco.