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.
WILSON KIPROP, MY PRE-RACE FAVORITE FOR THE OLYMPIC GOLD, by Justin Langat
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