With the political class headed to Nakuru’s Afraha Stadium for a post-ICC thanksgiving rally on Saturday, the athletics elite charge the opposite direction to Eldoret’s Kipchoge Keino Stadium in what promises to be a world-class final day of the blue-riband Athletics Kenya weekend meeting.
If Friday’s heats were anything to go by, Saturday’s finals will most certainly rival the Diamond League circuit in class with explosive contests right from the sprints to middle and long distance events as well as field action.
World and Olympic 1,500 metres champion Asbel Kiprop threw down the gauntlet on Friday with another fine performance in the 800 metres, clocking one minute 44.34 seconds, which is his best ever performance at high altitude, and an improvement from Thursday’s opening 1:45.20.
Kiprop arrived at the Kip Keino Stadium in style on Friday, powering his BMW X6 to the parking lot and quickly warming up for the 11:45am heats.
His wine-red “beamer”, armed with a powerful V8-powered engine and a capacity of hitting 96 kilometres per hour in just 4.6 seconds, typifies the personality of the world champion.
“It’s exhilarating performance will dominate whatever road you’re on,” the German manufacturer BMW boasts in the X6 brochure. “A born standout with an aggressive personality.”
They might as well have been describing Kiprop whose early season form has been nothing short of aggressive. The three-time world champion, a chief inspector of the Kenya Police, is himself smiling broadly, happy with his progress, and perhaps confident this could be the season he could eclipse his 1:43.15 personal best over two laps which he recorded in 2011 at Monaco’s Stade Louis II Stadium.
It was on the same track in the Principality that the policeman posted a 1,500m PB of 3:26.69 last July, a mark just 0.69 seconds shy of Hicham El Guerrouj’s world record. Kiprop, a die-hard Arsenal fan, started off 2016 on the cross country circuit, running in the 10km race at the police championships at Ngong Racecourse before switching to the 5,000m on the track at the Mumias leg of the AK series, on both occasions building on endurance.
“The (international) season starts next month and, after running in the cross country earlier on, and the 5,000 metres in Mumias, I’ve run the 800m here for speed,” Kiprop, the 2008 Olympic 1,500m champion, explained his strategy in Eldoret on Friday.
“Next weekend at police championships in Nairobi, I will run in the 1,500 metres to stabilise a bit,” Kiprop, whose 400m split was 50.8, added. But fans might just be disappointed as the world champion might not line up in Friday’s 800m final at 12:10pm.
“The Mondo track here is very fast but the strong wind and the altitude make the conditions quite difficult,” he explained.