NAIROBI, Kenya, May 9 – A fortnight before the London Olympics men 1500m final, Kenya’s Asbel Kiprop was literally on top of the world and the man to beat at the quadrennial global showpiece in his speciality.
On July 20, Kiprop’s lanky legs motored to a career best 3:28.88 in the fast track of Monaco to set a blistering world lead to underline his favorite status going into the Games.
However, on August 7, 2012, Kiprop trooped home last in the metric mile final in one of the most bizarre performances of the London Olympics to surrender his title in the most embarrassing of fashion.
Such was the shock that tore through his much heralded team mates after Kiprop ran out of steam that Commonwealth champion Silas Kiplagat and last year’s world number 2 Nixon Chepseba also bombed out to finish seventh and 11th in that order.
“During my last day of training in Kenya before we travelled to London, I felt my hamstring and this is the injury that I took there. It was huge pain to qualify for the final itself but I decided not to quit.
“Competing in the Olympics even if one finishes last like I did is still a great thing though I’m disappointed. It is my aim now to make up for that,” the reigning world titleholder said before leaving for Friday’s Doha Diamond League meeting.
“This is the year to redeem my image and I have tested the hamstring and I cannot feel the effects of the injury. I believe it is not going to be easy since there are still many good guys around.
“It took time to accept what happened and to listen to the bad things people were saying and training hard. I believe I’m now ready to face the competition and restore my name. There are low moments in one’s career and London was one of the most disappointing for me,” Kiprop explained.
Although the men’s 1500m race in Doha will not contribute points to the Diamond Race, Kiprop is fired up to lay a marker against a strong collection of athletes including his domestic archrival Kiplagat whom he led to the altar at the Daegu Worlds.
Others in the imposing Metric Mile field dominated by Africans include, Collins Cheboi, Daniel Kipchirchir Komen, Bethwell Birgen, Ismael Kombich and Victor Kebenei from Kenya, Aman Wote and Mekonnen Gebremedhin (Ethiopia), Abdelaati Iguider (Morocco), Johan Kronje (South Africa), Belal Mansoor Ali (Bahrain), Arturo Casado (Spain).
“I have been waiting to go out there and take on the best again in my best shape and Doha is the best place to start. I’m not promising anything at the moment since I must first know where I am.
“What I know is my goal for this year remains defending my title and I have to work hard to get my body in the right shape,” the 23 year-old asserted.
Kiprop ran hard at domestic meetings in Mumias and Nairobi in the fortnight and week before Doha over his preferred distance and the lesser 800m race to put his recovered body to test.
“We decided to give him a thorough test to see how he would respond and so far, we are happy that he has felt nothing and what remains is to sharpen him for the task ahead,” David Letting, one of his coaches stressed.
Standing tall at 186cm, Kiprop is seeking to soar above the field as he begins crafting a comeback to the top cream of men’s 1500m running.
– Kimathi Kamau