Eliud Kipchoge hopes Rio 2016 will erase London 2012 pain
For a man who settles for nothing less than the best, missing the London 2012 Olympics was the most painful moment in the celebrated career of distance runner, Eliud Kipchoge.
The Athens 2004 bronze and Beijing 2008 silver medallist made two failed attempts to make the London 2012 squad in the only significant blot in the stellar performances of the athlete, 31, who has 14 years of running at the top level under his belt.
On June 1, Kipchoge was forced to seventh (27:11.93) at the controversial 10000m Kenyan Trial at the IAAF Diamond League Pre Fontaine Classic meeting in Eugene, Oregon and on June 23, he was the biggest victim of the brutal 5000m selection race at Nairobi’s Nyayo National Stadium when he repeated his position (13:25.47) to crash out of London 2012 altogether.
To add insult to Athletics Kenya (AK) selectors overlooked his experience in handing novice Emmanuel Bett the fourth slot on June 23 since the winner, Isaiah Kiplangat Koech has the wildcard after winning the previous season’s IAAF Diamond League.
It was events of June 2012 that altered the complexion of Kipchoge’s career after making the telling decision that ultimately, rewarded him with his cherished dream of featuring at a third Olympics where he is hoping to complete the set of medals with the coveted gold.
“I’m happy to be given a chance to participate in marathon at the Olympics. This will be crucial to me since I have never won a gold in the Olympics, it’s more than important,” the two-time London Marathon champion told Citizen Digital from his home in Eldoret.
It has been a whirlwind couple of weeks for the man who punched his ticket for Rio 2016 when he demolished a world class field to defend his London title in 2:03:05, the second fastest ever on April 24.
His jaw-dropping performance at the streets of the British capital where he came to withing eight seconds of the world record (2:02:57) has installed him as the overwhelming favourite for the top medal in Brazil but he not one to be taken in by top billing.
“I’m going to approach it carefully and I’m not going to underrate anyone because you never know what will happen. In this Olympics everyone wants to win a gold medal,” the gifted runner who announced his presence to the world by beating Ethiopian greats, Kenenisa Bekele and Haile Gebrsellasie to the 5000m gold medal at the 2003 World Championships as a teenager declared.
Like any Kenyan in the Rio 2016 marathon line-up, Kipchoge has the golden footsteps of Beijing 2008 champion and Olympics record holder, the late Samuel Wanjiru (2:06:32) to follow.
“It will take a lot of time, sacrifices, perseverance and patience to win Olympics gold if you watch what the late Wanjiru did. I’m sorry Wanjiru died before he fully celebrated his performance. It takes a lot of time,” he added.
His failed bid to make the London 2012 party informed him it was time to abandon his cherished track and pursue road running where he was facing an imposing generation of established stars to make an impact.
“Everything I had was gone and I needed to look ahead. This is life you have to accept outcomes whether they are bad or good and you have to know there are ups and downs. I had hope I will make it again and so I focused on the future and it paid off,” he stressed.
His successful shift from track to road has baffled many and ever the philosopher, Kipchoge offered his time honoured response to the secret behind his longevity and success.
“First thing that keeps me going it’s the love of sports. Secondly, its the will,” he quipped.
Facing compatriots Wilson Kipsang, world record holder Dennis Kimetto and New York winner, Stanley Biwott who rounded the top four at the 2015 London Marathon as well as his arch-rival, Kenenisa, Kipchoge was well against it in his title defense.
However, he put together one of the most enduring front running performances ever witnessed at the marathon and at 40K, only Biwott who will join him in the Rio squad could keep up but even he was dispensed with soon after as he raced against the clock in the latter stages.
“I was going for London’s fastest time and at first, I was not aware with 2K to go I was within the world record. When I looked at my watch, I saw I was in and tried my best to go for it but unfortunately, I did not make it in the end.
“I was aiming for 2:03 but in the last 400m I saw it was possible and I pushed it a bit,” he outlined.
“I was not disappointed that I did not make the world record. I’m self-disciplined. If I start regretting then that would be a sign of indiscipline,” Kipchoge stoically maintained.
On Monday, Kipchoge and Rio teammates, Biwott and Wesley Korir (men) as well as fellow London winner, Jemimah Sumgong and Helah Kiprop were in Nairobi for a strategy meeting with AK and National Olympics Committee-Kenya.
It was agreed everyone would train by themselves, an arrangement that suits Kipchoge who prepares for his races with surgical precision.
Since taking up the ultimate distance challenge, he has won six of the seven marathons started and last year, his world record bid was slowed down by the flapping insoles of his specially designed Nike running shoes, coming to the tape in 2:04:00 that was the quickest for 2015.
In London, he came within a hair’s breath of the world record ran by Kimetto at the same Berlin course in 2014 and having given his all to realise his Olympics dream, you can almost bet he will not let the chance slip through his fingers.
KIPCHOGE’S MARATHON RECORD
2:03:05 1 London 24 Apr 2016
2:04:00 1 Berlin 27 Sep 2015
2:04:05 2 Berlin 29 Sep 2013
2:04:11 1 Chicago IL 12 Oct 2014
2:04:42 1 London 26 Apr 2015
2:05:00 1 Rotterdam 13 Apr 2014
2:05:30 1 Hamburg 21 Apr 2013
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