Wilson Kiprop, my pre-race favorite for the Olympic gold, by Justin Lagat, note by Larry Eder

Justin Lagat is our newest columnist, he will write a piece a week for us. A young runner and writer, Justin wrote this column about his friend and team mate, Wilson Kiprop, the winner of the Kenyan Olympic Trials for 10,000 meters. 

Wilson endured many difficulties before he made the Kenyan Olympic team. Justin argues why he considers Wilson Kiprop his prime candidate for the gold medal in the 10,000 meters. 

A few of us have our own ideas of who will win the 10,000 meters, however, Justin's column makes a fascinating read....

Wilson Kiprop, Kenyan 10,000m Trials, photo by PhotoRun.net


Kiprop, Masai duel, Kenyan 10,000m Trials, by PhotoRun.net

If the 10,000m Olympic Gold Medal were to be given out to an athlete who truly deserves 
it without having to run, to me it would go to Wilson Kiprop of Kenya. But not to worry, 
because even though that will never be the case, he definitely is still going to win it. 
He has run the world's leading time this year to support that.
Before I met him in person, I had read about him in the IAAF biographies, seen him run 
in some local races, and heard what his fellow athletes were saying about him. I heard 
and read of many hopeless situations he overcame in his early life which gave me a lot 
of hope that with determination, everything was possible. I found his phone number 
some time later, asked him about joining his training group at Iten and he welcomed me. 
He also sponsored another athlete to stay with me because I was living outside their 
camp and would join them every day in their training. Some of the advice I remember 
from him is that we should not aim to beat others in competitions, but to run for the 
betterment of our lives and those who would depend on us.  Good advice.
On 18th April last year, I found him sitting alone in the dining room at Gianni 
Demadonna's training camp in Iten. It was barely 5 minutes after Geoffrey Mutai 
had run the world's fastest time at the Boston Marathon and I was the first person 
to break the news to him as he hadn't been able to watch the event since he was 
traveling to the camp while the race was being run. He was so excited and immediately 
dialed someone whom he addressed as 'coach' to confirm the news.

"Coach, Geoffrey has done it! It is now my turn!" He spoke into the phone, 
the tone and the look on his face was stupefying. I had no doubt he was about 
to do something great. His seriousness was reflected in the way he began to put 
all his time and dedication into hard training in the following weeks. At times, 
he would choose to train individually and would either go for his track workouts 
at Kamariny Stadium in Iten, or travel to Chepkoilel Stadium in Eldoret. He was 
targeting the World Championships in Daegu, South Korea.
He deservingly landed a spot in the 10,000m team to represent Kenya in Daegu, 
after finishing 2nd in the national trials in July. Unfortunately, he had to 
resign shortly before the championships due to an injury, which was really sad 
to everyone who had seen how hard he had been fighting to get there.  He spent 
the better part of last year tending to his injury and had to fly to Italy for 
special therapy for some months.
Towards the end of the year, he was again fit to compete and started it by winning the 
annual Tuskys Wareng Cross Country Championships in Eldoret. He started this year very 
well by beating Geoffrey Mutai to a second position and winning the Discovery Kenya 
Cross Country at Eldoret Sports Club.
His fans held their breath, during a mini-trial done on 17th April in Nairobi, to select 
a provisional team to go to Eugene, Oregon in the USA, for the final selection of Kenya's 
10,000m Olympic team. He had just come back from running the Berlin half marathon the 
same month and everyone was afraid that he had not yet recovered enough to make it, 
but he managed to place 10th overall. As he went to the final trials in Eugene, USA, 
I had no more worries and he proved me right by running his PB and this year's world 
leading time of 27:01:98, winning the race!  "To get to represent my country at the 
Olympics is the most special thing to me," he said after the race. Knowing his strong 
will and determination, I know he surely is going to stage a great performance there.
This is what Geoffrey Mutai, the world's fastest marathoner, told me a few days ago when 
I asked him about his predictions for the 10,000m Olympic event: "I have more hopes in 
Wilson Kiprop since we have run in a number of races together and I know him to be a guy 
who is able to adjust to any tactics employed in the race, is self-disciplined in his 
training, and takes advice from coaches seriously."

Wilson Kiprop's victory will mean a lot to many. It will be the epic achievement of a man who 
struggled from a seemingly hopeless state early in his life to become one of the 
greatest in the world. The clock is ticking. Will he be the athlete to land an early 
gold medal to Kenya on 4th August? It surely will be a great moment for the nation. 
Everyone who has ever been friends with him, his family; especially his mother, the 
athletes his sponsors at Iten and Kapseret, and also the biggest birthday present for 
me .... I already informed him about it. I am waiting patiently for the day - my 
birthday - when my friend and training colleague, Wilson Kiprop, brings home 
the gold for Kenya!

Wilson Kiprop, Victorious in Eugene, Oregon, how will he fair in London? photo by PhotoRun.net

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