SWR can fall but Kenyan athletes must pull their weight- Mateelong
- Former Africa 3,000m steeplechase champion Richard Mateelong believes the current crop of Kenyan male athletes are capable of breaking the World Record (WR) if they set their minds and work towards attaining the goal.
- The 3,000m steeplechase race has been earmarked as “a preserve of Kenya” since time immemorial especially in the men’s front.
Former Africa 3,000m steeplechase champion Richard Mateelong believes the current crop of Kenyan male athletes are capable of breaking the Steeplechase World Record (SWR) if they set their minds and work towards attaining the goal.
The 3,000m steeplechase race has been earmarked as “a preserve of Kenya” since time immemorial especially in the men’s front.
Moreover, in a number of occasions, Kenyans have gone on to sweep the podium.
Granted, despite the immense dominance, the WR has proved elusive for Kenyan athletes.
Bernard Barmasai’s was the last Kenyan to hold a WR after running 7:55.72 in 1997. Morocco’s Brahim Boulami would however be the man to break Barmasai’s record in 2001 after shaving off 44 seconds to make it 7:55.28.
Kenyan-born Stephen Cherono, now renamed Saif Saaeed Shaheen after shifting allegiance to Qatar in 2003, further lowered the time to the current 7:55.28 in 2004 which has stood for close to 15 years, and Mateelong has rallied his compatriots to set a new record.
Having formed a fierce partnership with Brimin Kipruto, Paul Kipsiele Koech and Ezekiel Kemboi that saw them dominate the seven-and-half-lap race for close to a decade; Mateelong argues that although his generation came short of the record, it is still possible to lower the mark.
Reigning Olympic and World champion Conseslus Kipruto looks like an apparent heir to Kemboi fondly known as ‘Baba Yao’ and Mateelong is adamant that Kipruto can lead.
“We still have good athletes in the event like (Conseslus) Kipruto and (Amos) Kirui but they need to strengthen teamwork because in London World Championships we only won a gold medal. The World Record is also possible although proper preparations are needed to realise that. Fifteenn years is really a long period but our athletes and coaches must sit down and plan well,” Mateelong told Citizen Digital.
The athlete who hails from Olengruone in Nakuru County had a splendid career clinching a bronze medal in the 2007 world Championships in Osaka, Japan before settling for the same in the Olympic Games held a year later in Beijing, China and later bagging silver in World Championships held in Berlin, Germany in 2009.
Mateelong’s bountiful harvest would, however, come in 2010, a year he says he rates as one of the best of his career. He captained Kenya to gold in the World Cross Country Championships in Bydgoszcz, Poland before clinching the African title in the championships held in Nairobi.
He would later bag the Continental Cup title before wrapping up the year with a gold medal in the Commonwealth Games held in New Delhi, India.
“Although I am proud of my career, I can say 2010 was my greatest year ever,” reflects Mateelong.
With Kemboi already making his debut in Hamburg Marathon on April this year and Brimin Kipruto having announced his shift to road races, Mateelong reveals that a knee injury dealt a major blow to his dreams of shifting to road races though he doesn’t harbour any regrets as he has already embarked on a coaching role.
“I suffered a knee injury in 2012 which ultimately ended my career in that it went on recurring and since then I returned to my work at the National Police Service. I have since moved to coach within the service,” said Mateelong.
With cases of doping among Kenyan athletes increasing with each passing day, the 35-year-old has warned athletes to avoid and focus on their training.
“It is not that there was no doping in our time, it was there but we chose not to follow that route. I am however a worried man because many athletes are now thinking of using shortcuts which is always dangerous. My appeal to athletes is to just concentrate on their training and set targets which will guide you,” Mateelong observed.
NAME: Richard Kipkemboi Mateelong
POB: Olenguruone, Nakuru County
Specialty: 3000m Steeplechase
2004- Silver, African Championships
2005- bronze- World Championships
2008- Gold- African Championships
2009- Silver-World Championships
2010- Gold- African Championships
-Gold- Continental Cup
-Gold- Commonwealth Games
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