Did the nation witness the birth of a new long distance running star at the Athletics Kenya National Cross-Country Championships last Saturday?
That is the question as little-known Kibiwott Kandie from Kenya Defence Forces swept to victory at Ras Al Khaimah (RAK) Half Marathon in United Arab Emirates on Friday, a week after he stunned favourite Geoffrey Kamworor from Kenya Police to win the National Cross-Country title.
And Kandie, who had three weeks earlier retained the KDF Cross-Country title, is mincing no words saying he wants to emulate Kamworor in all facets of the game as the man of all surfaces.
First things first: the 23-year-old athlete from Baringo, who trains in Ngong, said his performance at RAK where he clocked 58:58, should seal his place in the Kenyan team for the World Half Marathon due March 29 in Gdynia, Poland.
Kamwowor, who had won the National Cross-Country title twice in 2016 and 2018, will be defending his World Half Marathon title for the fourth consecutive time in Gdynia.
Athletics Kenya are due to pick the team on Wednesday and Kamworor looks set to lead the assault.
Kandie will then turn focus on winning the Africa Cross-Country Championships due April 8 in Lome, Togo, and hope to make the team for the 2021 Bathurst World Cross-Country Championships in Australia.
Kamworor has won the World Cross-Country title twice and has represented Kenya in 10,000m at the 2015 and 2017 World Championships and 2016 Rio Olympic Games.
Kandie said that after the Lome event, he will take a shot in 10,000m with hopes of making Team Kenya for the 2020 Tokyo Games.
“It’s my dream to emulate Kamworor who is a great athlete. I am working towards that dream. I believe it’s possible with hard work and dsicpline ” said Kandie, whose role model is his coach John Korir, the 2001 and 2003 National Cross-Country champion.
Interestingly, Korir was the last KDF athlete to win at the National Cross-Country in 2003, before Kandie struck last Saturday.
On December 31, he broke Paul Tergat’s 23-year-old course record when winning the Corrida Internacional de São Silvestre 15km Road Race in 42:59 in Sao Paulo, Brazil.