Resurgent Abel Kirui eyes double London joy in 2017
London 2012 Olympics silver medallist and two-time IAAF Worlds champion Abel Kirui is eyeing a third global title and registering a second career World Marathon Majors city victory at the British capital this year.
At 34, Kirui proved his best days were not behind him when he scored an epic victory in the 2015 Chicago Marathon (2:11:23) in October after four injury-plagued seasons held back his progression since taking the second medal in London.
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The affable Kirui has set his sights on glory at the British capital, first on April 23 when he wants to take on an imposing field at the 2017 Virgin London Marathon before hopefully returning to the same city to vie for a third world title in August if he gets the nod from Team Kenya selectors.
Kirui who has ran to two fifth finishes at the London city marathon -2:07:56 in 2012 and 2:08:05 in 2010- will likely face two-time defending and Olympics champion, Eliud Kipchoge and Berlin winner and Ethiopian track world record holder, Kenenisa Bekele among other fearsome competitors.
“By the grace of God, I shall be going for the for the third world title in London but my greatest desire is to be among the top three at the London Marathon. The preparations are still on and I think I think I shall get an invite.
“At the World Championships we need to be always at the top. So when Kirui is there, be assured I shall make it to the podium or we get the top two positions. We need to retain our title as the leaders in the world. If I manage to achieve that, Kenyans will be happy and say that Kirui did us proud,” the senior Administration Police officer Kirui told Citizen Digital.
Kirui is the third Kenyan after Douglas Wakiihuri (1987) and Luke Kibet (2007) to win the world title at Berlin 2009 and the first to successfully to defend it when he took gold at the 2011 edition in Daegu.
In Berlin, Kirui set a championship record of 2:06:54 when led compatriot Emmanuel Kipchirchir Mutai (2:07:48) to the Kenyan 1-2 with Ethiopian Tsegay Kebede rounding the podium in 2:08:35.
Kirui held on to his title in South Korea in the second fastest winning time at the biennial track and field global showpiece where he clocked a season’s best of 2:07:38 as countryman Vincent Kipruto (2:10:06) caught the bouquet and Rio Olympics silver medallist Feyisa Lilesa from Ethiopian won bronze in 2:10:32.
Kirui dethroned Dickson Chumba as Chicago champion in a gruelling contest over the final five kilometres as Kenyans occupied the first five positions.
Chumba who braved jetlag came in second in 2:11:26 as Gideon Kipketer (2:12:20), Paul Lonyangata (2:13:17) and Stephen Sambu (2:13:35) closed the top five.
“Chicago was not easy; it was a matter of life and death. Dickson is another talent, that you cannot afford to undermine because he is an under 2:05 guy and has been winning various races and knows what he wants.
“I had to tackle him tactically. All I wanted to do was to prove to my fans that I’m still around and I have not become too old to be ignored. When I finished, I danced in the Usain Bolt style which I also spiced with my own moves,” Kirui said bursting into laughter.
Despite having not made a successful attempt on the world record, Kirui is optimistic that with the right conditions he will be able to beat 2014 world record 2:02:57 set by Dennis Kimetto’s at the Berlin Marathon.
Given the right conditions, Kirui a 2:07 average marathoner believes he can attack Dennis Kimetto’s jaw-dropping 2:02:57 world record set in 2014 at the Berlin Marathon.
“This time round I would not want to talk much about the world record, it’s not easy. I have been out for four years. If I had pacemakers in Chicago I would have maybe done 2:05 then I would attempt the world record.
“Since it would come automatic if you are in good shape and if you are running with disciplined athletes like Eliud, Kenenisa and New York Marathon champion, Ghirmay Ghebreslassie,” Kirui charged.
In 2007 Kirui was employed as a pacemaker for the two-time Olympics gold medallist and four-time world champion Haile Gebrselassie of Ethiopia who was assaulting the previous world record set in 2003 by Paul Tergat of 2:04:55 in Berlin.
Gebrselassie shed 29 seconds off the record to place at 2:04:26. He then broke his own standard following year to leave it at 2:03:59 to become the first man to run under 2:04.
Kirui, a father of two, started running from a tender age while studying at Samitui Primary School in Nandi County.
He delights at the athletics pedigree in his family which started with his great grandfather who was a hunter and his uncle and coach, the retired marathoner Mike Rotich whom encouraged him to venture into the sport.
“I discovered my talent at a very young age and it has been with me for a long time. In primary school, I used to run a lot until my teachers kept feeling my heart if it was really there and functioning,” Kirui quipped.
“I have achieved a lot financially through running. I have even invested in upcoming athletes, gained a lot of honour through winning races as well as being promoted in my job and many other benefits.
“In this life, one has to be very happy that why I’m always jovial and making people around my happy. In fact my family misses me a lot when I’m not around because I make them laugh a lot,” the ever-jovial champion stated.