Kenya’s 1,500m ready for Moscow assignment

By AYUMBA AYODI

Posted on Thursday, August 1st, 2013 at 4:36 pm

Reigning World 1,500m champion, Asbel Kiprop, is confident of retaining his title in Moscow, Russia this month.

Kiprop will lead the 2011 Daegu IAAF World Championships silver medallist Silas Kiplagat, Nixon Chepseba and Bethwell Birgen in hunt for glory in the Moscow.

In fact, Kiprop feels that Kenya has a strong team capable of sweeping the first four places, adding that any of them could win gold.

“But I don’t want anybody touching my title. Let Silas go for his silver as in Daegu, then Nixon can take care of himself!” said Kiprop with a light touch in a sudden change of heart as he sipped hot tea, sending the team  into lengthy laughter.

Then a smiling Chepseba fought back: “Kiprop, you have held the title long enough and therefore, start forgetting about it. I assure I’ll be the one at the middle of the podium. I am going to wrestle it from you but even after that, let us  hold hands as we cross the finishing line to block our rivals just like we did at the trials.”

Then Kiprop retorted: “I welcome the idea of holding hands but I hope you will all allow me to put by head in front first.”

That is the  atmosphere and friendship in the 1,500m team as the athletes spruced up for the championships due August 10-18.

In a show of solidarity ahead of the worlds, the London Olympics trio Kiplagat (3:33.70), Kiprop (3:33.80) and Chepseba (3:33.90) crossed the finish line almost holding each other’s hands during the trials.

Good chance
Having a world champion, Kiprop and the 2012 Diamond League winner, Kiplagat meant Kenya stood a good chance. Athletics Kenya coaches then picked Birgen, who finished fifth in the trials, to complete the team.

“The dice has been cast and the victory is ours for the taking. We shall not allow the mistakes of London to recur in Moscow,” said Kiprop, who has set two world leading times this season. “It’s now left for us to finish the job well.”

Kiplagat (3:36.19) was the best placed Kenyan at the 2012 Olympics, finishing seventh as Chepseba (3:39.04) and Kiprop (3:43.83) came last in 11th and 12th places. Algerian Taoufik Makhloufi won in 3:34.08 ahead of USA’s Leonel Manzano  3:34.79 and Moroccan Abdalaati Iguider 3:35.13.

It came one year after Kiprop won the world title in Daegu in 3:35.69 with Kiplagat setting for silver in 3:35.92.

“The question what happened in London has continued to bother me hence our main objective is to bury that ghost with a good performance and I pray to God to give us strength and good health,” said Kiplagat.

Chepseba said the London show shall remain a mystery but they are ready to undo what happened. “We must take revenge and mend the broken hearts,” said Chepseba.

Kiprop posted the fastest time in 12 years when he won Monaco Diamond League event on July 19 in 3:27.72, the fourth fastest ever after  Moroccan Hicham El Guerrouj  (3:26.00 ) on July 14, 1998, Bernard Lagat  (USA-3:26.34) August 24, 2001 and  Noureddine Morceli ( Algeria-3:27.37) July 12.

Birgen has the fourth fastest time this season of 3:30.77 from a fourth place finish in Monaco while Chepseba and Kiplagat have not competed much this season.

The Kenyans have a battle at hand against Ilham Tanui Özbilen (Turkey) 3:31.30 , Zakaria Mazouzi (Morocco) 3:31.94 and Ethiopians Abiyot Abinet (3:34.06), Mekonnen Gebremedhin (3:32.430, Aman Wote  (3:32.65).

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