World 1500m champion Elijah Manangoi recalls the significance of winning a breakthrough silver medal over the metric mile at the 2015 IAAF World Championships in Beijing.
“I never ran at the World U18 or World U20 Championships and it was only after stepping up from the 400m to the 1500m in 2014 did I start to excel on the global stage.
“I went into the 2015 season knowing I was in good shape, but even after I won a place on the Kenyan team for the World Championship in Beijing I didn’t expect to win a medal.
“Selected on the same Kenyan team as Asbel Kiprop (the three-time world 1500m champion) was very important. He became a mentor to me and gave me heaps of advice. He told me stories of his career and his championship experiences. He taught me how to run on the Diamond League circuit, many things.
“He played a very important part in me winning silver in Beijing.
“I will never forget the final and running like crazy for the final 80 metres (and moving up from fifth to the silver medal). I had (Abdelaati) Iguider, (Taoufik) Makhloufi, Silas Kiplagat and Asbel - some very strong guys ahead of me. I just remember pushing, pushing and pushing down the home straight. I could see Iguider was going to fall over at the finish. After I crossed the line and it was confirmed on the giant screen I had won silver was a huge moment for me. I could not believe it. It was a big surprise.
“For me, an athlete who had never competed at an age-group championship to go directly into the seniors and win a medal was a very important moment. I believe it acted as a springboard for the next stage of my career. It gave me the confidence to qualify for the 2016 Rio Olympic Games and set me up for success in London (where he won World Championship 1500m gold).
“Asbel said to me after the race that I was a very strong man to come from so far back to win silver. He told me I was a very “dangerous” opponent – which gave me a lot of encouragement.
“I went back home to celebrate my success and more than 2000 people turned up in my home village. As a Maasai, I celebrated by drinking the blood of a goat. I used the money I had earned in 2015 to invest in a new house and also pay the school fees for two younger brothers.
“Just two years earlier, I had been a 400m sprinter struggling to qualify for major championship and yet just two years later in Beijing I had won a 1500m silver. It made me believe anything was possible.”