Since the lanky 24 year-old launched his season in March with a promise to attack his idol, retired Moroccan great, Hicham El Guerrouj’s 3:26.00 world record, the build up for Friday’s Herculis Monaco meeting, an IAAF Diamond League spectacular, has been dominated by his planned assault.
Some could say his boldness is taking his reputed cockiness too far but to those familiar with his ability, his quest is not far fetched as he prepares to uncork the biggest race of his life.
In choosing Monaco to be the meet to bless with a new world record, Kiprop is banking on a track where he has ran two of his all time bests in successive years over the metric mile to deliver the Coup de Grace in his sport.
In 2012, he powered to 3:28.88 before returning a year later and a day to his milestone (19 July) to pound the track to submission with his extended legs that left the clock returning a huge PB of 3:27.72.
This is the performance that made him believe the final step in emulating the achievements of his hero El Guerrouj, a former Olympics and world titleholder, in 1500m was a hairbreadth away.
“Unlike in 2012 when I ran so fast and injured my hamstring just before the Olympics, I did not feel the effects last year and after starting the season injury free, I knew this could be the year to run faster than my personal best, even the world record,” he said in March before leading the Kenyan 4x1500m quartet to win gold in world record time of 14:22.22 in Bahamas.
At the IAAF Diamond League meeting in Paris on 5 July, Kiprop undertook a “warm-up” for his Monaco 1500m over 800m, beating Olympics silver medallist at the distance, Botswana’s Nijel Amos into second place as he set a joint world-leading time of 1:43.34 that was equalled by record holder, David Rudisha, last weekend in Scotland.
Kiprop could yet find his plans frustrated by Djibouti’s world indoor 1500m champion Ayanleh Souleiman, or the current Diamond Race leader and biggest domestic rival Silas Kiplagat, whose season’s best of 3:29.70 is only slightly slower than that of Kiprop’s 3:29.18.
What is not in doubt is that the meeting that offered seven world leading times and four Diamond League records last year has a potentially show-stopping act amid the stellar cast assembled and should he achieve his WR dream, Kiprop has stated to this reporter his next bar will be matching El Guerrouj 1500m and 5000m Olympics double from Athens 2004.
It’s rare for Rudisha, the 1:40.91 standard bearer over 800m to slot into the under card but his progression after a year out injured will be also fascinating.
For the first time in his comeback Rudisha, will square up to the man who moved to fill his void in Ethiopia’s world champion, Mohammed Aman, the only runner to have beaten him twice at full fitness between the fall of 2009 and just before last summer.
Rudisha, feeling his way back this season, gave his strongest indication yet that he is heading back to his best form as he won last weekend’s IAAF Diamond League event in Glasgow, equalling Kiprop’s 2014 best in so doing.
But despite his defeat by Kiprop, Amos still looks a severe danger in the 800m. He clocked 1:43.70 in Paris, and 1:43.63 in Eugene. Aman’s best this year is 1:43.99.
Cherono vs Genzebe
World silver medallist, Mercy Cherono, will be out to once again hand Genzebe Dibaba, who set three world indoor records this winter, another beating on the Ethiopians first Monaco showing in the women’s 5000m.
Cherono has powered to victory of the two miles in Eugene and the 3000m in Lausanne to underline her credentials.
World champion Eunice Sum faces US champion Ajee Wilson in the women’s 800m.
The men’s 3000m steeplechase has lost Kenya’s world and Olympic champion Ezekiel Kemboi with a slight hamstring strain, but the field remains hugely strong on a track where Kemboi’s compatriot Brimin Kipruto set an African record in 2011 of 7:53.64, only one hundredth of a second away from the world record held by Qatar’s Saif Saaeed Shaheen.
Jairus Birech, winner in Rome and Oslo and leader of the 2014 listings with 8:02.37, looks the favourite.
-Material from iaaf.org used in this report