World Under-20 Championships 800 metres title holder Kipyegon Bett is ready to take over the mantle from compatriot and world record holder David Rudisha when the final of the two-lap race is staged at the Olympic Stadium here Tuesday evening (11.35pm Kenyan time).
“Reality has finally sunk in and for sure, it’s possible and I am ready for it,” says Bett, who is also the 2015 World Under-18 Championships silver medallist.
“My performance graph over the last three years speaks for itself hence it won’t shock me as such since I have been working for it and it had been my target this season,” said Bett confidently.
A late injury knocked out reigning Olympic champion Rudisha from defending his world title here.
He is the only other Kenyan to have won two world titles, which he did in 2011 (Daegu, South Korea) and in 2015 (Beijing).
Billy Konchellah was the first Kenyan to win the global title in 1987 before defending it in 1991. Other winners were Paul Ruto (1993) and Alfred Kirwa Yego (2007).
Bett is seeking to become the fifth Kenya to hold the two-lap world title and reckons it’s unfortunate that compatriots Ferguson Rotich and Emmanuel Korir fell out in the semi-finals on Sunday.
But he hastened to say that this also took away the pressure from him since he won’t consult anyone on teamwork in the final.
“Going it alone will be better since it will give me time to concentrate, not having someone to share notes with,” said Bett, who warned his rivals to prepare for a titanic fast-paced final.
Bett downplayed the threat by the 2012 Olympic silver medallist Nijel Amos from Botswana, who has been training in Kenya, and 2013 world champion Mohamed Aman of Ethiopia who shifted his base to Eugene, Oregon.
He says the only person who might stand between him and the coveted gold medal is world silver medallist Adam Kszczot from Poland.
“Amos and Aman have been struggling in their races but Kszczot has been strong and focused. That is why a fast pace will the favourable to avoid falling into their trap,” said Bett.
It was a gun-to-tap performance from Bett in the semi-finals as he led through 200m in 24.22 seconds and at 400m and 600m in 51.52 and 1:18.74 to win the third semi-final in 1:45.02. Bett’s semi was the fastest as Aman sealed the last automatic qualifying slot in 1:45.40.
Kszczot, who is keen to upgrade his silver to gold, won the semi-final in 1:46.24 as Amos from Botswana sealed the last qualifying place in 1:46.29.
“I have no pressure having reached the final,” said Bett. “I am going for gold and I fear none in the field, having competed against them before.”
Bett comes from an athletics family where her elder sister Purity Kirui is the reigning Commonwealth 3,000m steeplechase champion. Kirui, too, is in London to chase the World 3,000m steeplechase title. “She has inspired me a lot and having her in London too makes it better,” said Bett.
Born on February 1, 1998 in Sigowet/Soin, Kericho County, Bett has been an astute middle distance runner right from Kiptere Primary School where he cleared in 2011.
He represented his school to the national level in 1,500m and 800m, winning the two-lap race in 2011 when in class eight.
While in form three in 2014 at Kiptere Boys, Bett won the National Secondary School Games 800m title before extending his reign to the Regional School Games where he won the two-lap race.
Bett matched on to win Africa Youth 800m title in 2015 in Mauritius before settling for silver at the World Youth the same year in Cali, Colombia.
He also won silver at the Commonwealth Youth Games in Samoa the same year before taking revenge against Willy Tarbei last year at the World Junior Championships in Poland.
Tarbei had beaten him in Cali and Samoa. Bett’s last show for Kenya before heading to London was at the World Relays in April in Bahamas where his team won silver in 4x800m. “It’s all about hard work, discipline and dedication.”