If there is any one top athlete the coronavirus pandemic has affected most, then it must be Olympic 3,000 metres steeplechase champion Conseslus Kipruto.
Kipruto, who hails from Mosoriot in Nandi County, where he has been training, was eyeing a successful year.
But that was not to be after the virus halted all the sporting events in the world.
Next month, Kipruto would have been seeking to defend his Olympic title in Tokyo, but the Games were postponed to next year forcing him to go back to the drawing board.
And as the world reopens slowly, he is among the few athletes who are eyeing Diamond League races in Europe, although their fate hangs in the balance after Kenya was not listed among countries whose nationals have been cleared to fly into the European Union.
Distracted by the virus
“I know Athletics Kenya, through President Jack Tuwei, are doing something so that Kenyan athletes can be allowed to travel and participate in various competitions in Europe.
We depend in races abroad and, as athletes, we have suffered enough due to the virus,” Kipruto told Nation Sport in an exclusive interview on Thursday during his speed work session at Mosoriot.
“I was in good shape this year and my target was to run sub-eight minutes in the (steeplechase) distance, but my plans were distracted by the virus.
“It has literally stopped our careers and we are hoping for the best because I miss competition,” said Kipruto.
The Olympic champion said that he has been working on his finishing kick after narrowly winning world title in the Doha games last year through the thickness of a vest.
Kipruto won in eight minutes, 01.35 seconds, beating Ethiopia’s Lamecha Girma (8:01.36) by a hair’s breadth with Morocco’s Soufiane El Bakkali third in 8:03.76.
“I have been working on my finishing kick because I almost lost to the Ethiopian last year in Doha and I realised I need to work on that because many athletes are working hard to wrestle the title from Kenya but it would be hard,” he said.
He is also working on his technique the barrier. “The world is changing… I used to train for speed work and long runs, but I have seen need to train for jumping over the barriers as one way of improving my chances of retaining the title,” added Kipruto.
When the skies open, he targets racing in the 3,000m and 1,500m after the 3,000m steeplechase was dropped from Diamond League core programme.
“This is also to my advantage, because I will be sharpening my skills and speed ahead of next year’s competitions including the Olympics Games,” he said.
Kenya-born Qatari Saif Saaeed Shaheen holds the steeplechase world record at 7:53.63, and Kipruto says that it’s a matter of time before a Kenyan athlete lowers the mark.
“The record has stayed in the Asian country for a long time but very soon, a Kenyan athlete will lower that time. I’m also trying my best to see if I can run below the record time,” added Kipruto.
He asked athletes to continue training while following directives from the Ministry of Health of social distancing, saying that the virus is “just a passing cloud” and competitions will resume soon.
“Many of the athletes are suffering because they depend on races to put food on the table and they shouldn’t give at this moment because soon the virus will be contained and our lives will go on as usual. Train hard and follow government’s directive of social distancing,” he said.