If you are looking for lessons in self-motivation, determination and consistency, look no further than the indefatigable David Rotich Kimutai of Kenya.
The top Kenyan race walker will be clocking 40 years just four days into the championships here, by which time he will either be in party mode or reflecting on just what it might have been like to be the fastest walker on earth.
Born in Kericho on August 19, 1969, Kimutai is the country’s most successful walker, his most recent international exploit being a 19th-place finish in this demanding discipline at the Beijing Olympics.
He will be the first Kenyan out in a final of the 12th IAAF World Championships in Athletics that throw off on Saturday at the Berlin Olympic Stadium.
Later on Saturday night, three Kenyan girls – World Cross Country champion Florence Kiplagat, Linet Masai and Grace Momanyi – carry the national flag in the 10,000m final.
Kimutai on Wednesday spoke of his target of a bronze medal here, and coming from a man who has defied solitude to train at the highest level back home, he should be taken seriously.
With a personal best of one hour, 20 minutes and 40 seconds recorded almost a decade and a half ago, Kimutai is the national champion and record holder.
Not been easy
“It has not been easy training alone in Kenya,” Kimutai said in an interview in downtown Berlin.
“Whenever I encourage athletes to try the walk, they freak out and keep complaining that it’s too demanding and makes the body take a bad beating.
“But there is nothing that comes easy. Race walking is like the marathon; you have to work hard.”
The closest Kimutai has come to the medals podium is the impressive fourth place at the 2006 Commonwealth Games in Melbourne, in which he wound up just one place outside the rostrum when he came fourth in 1:25.42.
He was 39th at the Sydney Olympics in 2000 (1:28.45), won the Africa title in Mauritius four years later (1:23.58) and improved his Olympic record with a 19th-place finish in Beijing last year in 1:22.21, the closest to his personal best so far.
“Now I want a bronze medal. My body feels very good this time and the weather here is great… just like Nairobi’s,” he said. “I prepared well despite training alone at home and I couldn’t be more focused than I am at the moment. Since the season started, I’ve been feeling really great!”
Against Olympic champion
Kimutai will come up against the Olympic champion, 23-year-old Russian Valeriy Borchin, who won his fast major title in Beijing last year and who has the world leading time of 1:17.38.
And there is the 20-year-old Chinese Wang Hao (with a personal best of 1:19.27) and talented Beijing bronze medallist Jared Talent of Austria.
Kimutai must have learnt his lesson on consistency from a man eight years his junior.
Francisco Javier Fernandez of Spain is also in the mix this Saturday looking to break a long-standing jinx – he has been second at the last three World Championship events – in 2003 (Paris), 2005 (Helsinki) and 2007 (Osaka).
The former world record holder was seventh in Beijing will be hoping that Lady Luck smiles down on him this time.