Kiprop hopes World Cross U-turn will spark 2017 charge
A decade ago, former Olympics winner and three-time men 1500m World Champion Asbel Kiprop swore never to ran in cross country again having had a painful experience in the scorching heat of the 2007 IAAF World Cross in Mombasa, Kenya.
However, the lanky athlete who has mellowed with age has had a change of heart after world governing body; the IAAF introduced the mixed relays to the biennial global showpiece set for March 27 in Kampala, Uganda.
This enticed the 2007 World Cross junior champion to return to the event where he announced his arrival on the international stage as a precocious teenager.
“My first cross-country was the worst. It was hot, sandy and worst when you finished you were put in an ice bed. That race even killed track legend Kenenisa Bekele who did not finish his race.
“I hated the cross-country since my experience in Mombasa and that’s why I performed rabbit duties for Mathew Kisorio at the Kenyan Trials that followed,” the Beijing 2008 Olympics champion recounted.
“I had the impression that all cross-countries are hot and it killed any interest I had. I decided to participate in the mixed relay because it’s short,” Kiprop told Citizen Digital about his U-turn as he prepares to run for his country in Kampala.
Kiprop led the Kenya Police 4X2000m relay squad to victory at the National Championships in Nairobi on Saturday (18) to earn his call-up to the Kampala-bound team.
Beatrice Chepkoech, Collins Cheboi and Ronald Kwemoi were the other members of the star-studded Kenya Police relay team.
Kiprop was excited to have booked a place in Team Kenya adding that he is looking forward to training with the team at the St. Patrick Teachers Training College in Kigali, Embu County.
“I started in Mombasa and I have to go to Uganda ten years later. It’s my first competition since Brussels and I have not done anything for speed work. I just came to start my season here and see how the training will go,” the Daegu 2011, Moscow 2013 and Beijing 2015 world champion over the metric mile stated.
Kiprop added that the mixed relay event that will see the runners in the team race a 2km lap each is suitable for middle distance athletes to build-up for the forthcoming track campaign as he aims at clinching an unprecedented fourth world title in his speciality.
“The race was good though confusing because you are giving the baton to an athlete of the opposite sex. It’s somehow interesting but challenging because once you open a huge gap someone can close it down easily.
“It’s a unique thing and a different experience altogether,” Kiprop who is keen on bouncing back to the middle step of the podium after bombing at last year’s Rio 2016 Olympics understated.
Olympics women 800m bronze medallist, Margaret Nyairera (Kenya Prisons), Chepkoech (Police) and Bernard Kipkorir (KDF) were named in the provisional 4x2000m squad alongside Kiprop after the Nationals.
The mixed Cross-country event was introduced to give an opportunity to middle distance runners (800m and 1500m) a chance to participate and to bring excitement to the biennial event whose global interest has been dwindling in recent times.
Kiprop announced his arrival at the international arena 2007 by leading a Kenyan 1-2-3 in the junior 8 km race at the Mombasa World Cross; clocking 24:07 with compatriots Vincent Kiprop (24:12) and Kisorio (24:23) settling for the lesser individual medals.
Four months later at the All African Games in Algiers Kiprop who was just 18 years old then stunned home favourites, Antar Zerguelaine and Tarek Boukensa to take the 1500m title on his first international track appearance for Kenya.
The National Anthem was played for the second time in the year in his honour after clocking 3:38.97 for top place while Zerguelaine stopped the timer at 3:39.04 for second place as countryman Boukensa settled for third place in 3:39.18 marking the start of a successful career on the track.
Few weeks after the African Games, Kiprop represented Kenya for the third time at the 2007 IAAF World Championship in Osaka in August.
Kiprop finished fourth setting a then personal best of 3:35.24 in a track with more experienced athletes.
Kenyan Born American, Bernard Lagat took gold in 3:34.77 as two-time World Champion, Bahraini Rashid Ramzi (3:35.00) who was later banned for doping finishing in the silver position as Shedrack Kibet Korir (3:35.00) settled for bronze.
In 2008, Kiprop skipped the cross-country season opting to concentrate on the Beijing Olympics, which were held in August. Kiprop once again encountered Ramzi and was not willing to let go of the much-coveted Olympics title.
Hence tightly contested final Ramzi narrowly beat Kiprop for the top honors and was forced to settle for second place. Ramzi was however stripped off the Olympics medal after he tested positive for CERA now known as EPO and Kiprop was elevated from silver to a gold medal.
In 2009,Kiprop showed very little interest in the cross country which was evident during Amman World Cross trials. Kiprop then a teenager made headlines after he decided to perform rabbit duties for Kisorio.
A decade later, Kiprop or the Kaptinga Express as he is also known is hoping the Uganda World Cross will spark the chase for more history at the London Worlds in the summer.
-Material from IAAF Focus on Athletes used in this report
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