One of the nice things about working with writers such as Justin Lagat, is their unique views and experiences of the sport. Justin Lagat wrote this about his friend, Asbel Kiprop, and his magnificent victory, hard fought and hard won, in Beijing on Sunday night.
A race, for the ages, and it was won by Asbel Kiprop.
Asbel Kiprop wins amazing 1,500m, photo by PhotoRun.net
Asbel Kiprop, the real gentleman, wins his third 1500m world title in Beijing, by Justin Lagat
Before the finals of the men’s 1500m race, there were rumors in social media that Asbel Kiprop was not feeling very well, and was not likely to run well. I remembered an interview that I had with him early in the season, in which he had told me that his main focus for this year was to win a third consecutive championship title in a row, and that he was even going to skip a number of races to focus on it. His preparations had gone very well, and he had picked up a great form at the right time by running a sensational time of 3:26.69 in Monaco. The thought of a sudden illness crushing all his dreams was scary.
Having practiced to run either at the front or from behind, Kiprop choose to run from behind this time round. His compatriots set a comfortable pace at the front. Even with less than 300m to go, he appeared to be out of contention, but then started to move easily towards the front from the outside lane. At the front, Taoufik Makhloufi and Abdelaati Iguider looked as though they were going to take the two top positions, but Asbel was able to run them down with a strong kick on the home straight and won the gold as Elijah Manangoi also came through from behind to take the silver medal.
Kiprop’s gold medal was the last one for Kenya in Beijing. It was the gold that saved Kenya from ending up third and ensured that the country remained on top of the rest at the medal standings.
I met Kiprop for the first time back in 2006 before he even became a track star. It was during a cross country race in Eldoret (the Tuskys Wareng Cross Country) and I had finished at some position slightly behind him. I was not able to get a T-shirt because only the first 20, or so, athletes got them. And as Asbel admired his T-shirt, he noticed that he had accidentally received two of them. I asked him if I could have one and even though he never knew me; explained to me how he had ended up there in the first place thanks to his brother, who agreed to cover for him by herding the cattle so that he could come to run. “Perhaps it was his luck, I should take it to him as a present,” he said, and I agreed with him.
Here are two reasons why I was rooting for Asbel to win this race.
First, Kiprop is a worthy role model. He is a man who cares for and keeps friends, despite his change in status from a village boy herding cattle, to a multiple world champion. I know most of his long time friends who are still friends with him, up to now, and they all highly regard and respect him. He is one man who cares about the welfare of others. I witnessed this when he had broken a Stadium record previously held by a fellow Kenyan, posted it on his Facebook page, but when the Kenyan failed to run impressively in another event somewhere else, he pulled down the post. When his car his full, he gives out money to his fellow athletes as fare when they attend local competitions.
These are only a drop in the sea of very many instances that I have seen him acting as a real role model and gentleman.
Second, he is one athlete who has always been urging other athletes to shun drugs and compete clean, besides advocating for life bans for drug cheats. A number of times, he has been supporting me in passing out the same message to athletes. With the much they have in common with Sebastian Coe, I hope that the new IAAF president will consider working with him at some time in the fight against doping given the passion the two have for a clean sport.
I don’t stay with all the Kenyan athletes, but whenever my path crosses with many of them, they have always made me believe that these heroes are not only heroes on the field but also in their daily lives as well. Ezekiel Kemboi, in 2013 when I was in his training group, out of his own pocket sponsored 16 athletes by providing them fare and two days’ accommodation to go out and compete in a track and field event in Nakuru. That touched me.
I always root for such athletes who want the best for others and for the community in general, and Asbel Kiprop is one such athlete.