Japheth Korir was unknown when he won the 5,000 metres gold medal at the Commonwealth Youth Championships in Pune, India, last year.
He has shown a lot of promise since, going by his performance on the local cross country circuit so far.
Born on January 1, 1992, in Sotik, Korir won the junior men’s (eight kilometres) race in the Kericho, Kisii, Nyahururu and Eldoret leg of the circuit.
However, he knows his past performances will count for nothing during the national trials at the Ngong Racecourse this weekend when the quest for places on the Kenyan team to next month’s World Cross Country Championships in Amman, Jordan, gets underway.
Korir is among the fastest rising stars in the junior men’s category keen to launch their careers with victory in their first International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) championship of the year.
Korir will, however, have to contend with, among others, Lucas Rotich, the bronze medallist at last year’s Word Cross Country Championship in Edinburgh and winner at the Eldoret Discovery Cross Country Championship.
Rotich was disappointed by his performance in Scotland and is itching for another chance to put things right.
"The (Nairobi) championship will be tough. Everyone will be eying to make the team but I believe, I have the experience my colleagues lack and I’m confident I will make it,” he said.
Korir had showed his intent in Eldoret by clocking 23:22.7 to beat Titus Mbishae, the World Junior Championships’ 10,000m silver medallist. Mbishae dropped to fourth behind Gilbert Masai and Charles Kibet.
Lack of fitness
But Mbishae attributed his loss to lack of fitness as he balanced academic and cross country. But he must have shaken off the rust over five weeks later and should be in his right frame of mind and fitness to take the fight to his opponents.
“I was not fit for this meeting (Eldoret) and that is why I struggled. But I hope to revive my hopes to make the team in the trials,” said Mbishae last month.
The junior men’s 8km race will also have Josephat Bett, winner of the Wareng cross country meet in Eldoret, and also at the junior race at the second AK cross country meeting in Kericho.
Peter Kimeli is also in the picture. Kimeli is younger brother of World Junior Championships 5,000m silver medallist Mathews Kisorio. The two are sons of Some Muge, a winner of the bronze medal at the 1983 World Cross Country Championships in Gateshead, England. Kimeli was seventh in Edinburgh behind his elder brother.
“Last year, the weather was not favourable to us. It was too cold. I hope to secure a ticket and go to Amman so that I can change that,” said Kimeli.
After failing to make the team to the last championships, Alex Oloitiptip, winner in Meru (25:09.5), hopes to go one better and be on the team to Amaan.
“I was spiked during the trials last year. Now I’m back and I hope to make the team to Jordan,” said Oloitiptip.
Head coach Julius Kirwa says he will have a selection headache in the junior men race because the performance this season has been outstanding.
“Look at the line up and you will stop worrying. But it is not so until after the trials. I will want to see how they battle and what gap the leader opens. Endurance will be a virtue to the winner,” he said.
“Take Paul Tanui for example, I dropped him last time because he had no experience running with shoes and his feet had blisters while in camp. Now that is history, he will be pushing for a ticket.”
Others in contention are Patrick Mwaka, Kiplagat Koech, Caleb Mwangangi, Silas Muturi, John Kiplimo, Gideon Mageka, Edwin Mokua, Gilbert Masai and Geoffrey Bundi.