NAIROBI, Kenya, July 27- Since upstart Charles Kamathi upset the revered Ethiopian distance running legend Haile Gebrselassie at the 2001 World Championships in Edmonton, Canada, the men 10000m gold at the event has been a mirage to Kenyans.
It is with this in mind that the trio headed to the 2011 edition in Daegu, South Korea are so eager to break the duck.
After all, their female compeers achieved the feat two years ago when the long strides of Linet Masai propelled to the women’s 10000m gold in Berlin ending a 12-year drought.
Peter Kirui, Wilson Kiprop and Martin Mathathi were the first to report to training camp on Tuesday to underline their serious intentions of reclaiming the glory at the longest track distance of the Worlds.
When Capital Sport caught up with them at their base at the Moi International Sports Centre, Kasarani, the three were quick to chorus their objective of working as a team to wrest the elusive 25-lap global title from the firm grip of Ethiopians.
“We are not fearing anyone or anything. We are there, we are ready and we are going for it. For sure, its not only Wilson Kiprop but the whole 10000m team and we are working to ensure everyone comes back with something,” Kiprop, the African champion over the distance stated.
Having began his career as a casual construction worker in Eldoret five years ago, Kiprop is aware what awaits in Korea is a task equal to lifting bricks and mixing mortar but just as he prevailed over the harsh conditions at building sites, he believes Kamathi’s success can be replicated in Korea.
The 24-year-old, who added the World Half Marathon title in Nanning, China to his African crown last October, intends to draw from his multiple distance training regime to reign supreme in Daegu.
“Of course, adding the World title to my Africa gold is my big aim and training for many distances has helped me acquire the endurance needed to race at such a final but the most important thing is to work to be in a position to for the medals at the end of the race first,” he explained.
On his return to Team Kenya, Mathathi, a personal friend of Kamathi knows all too well what he is up against, having come close to winning the men 10000m title at the 2007 edition in Osaka, Japan.
“Then I was not confident that I could beat Kenenisa so I went out too early. However, if I find myself in a similar position in Korea then I know what to do since I learned.
“I hope the fact that I’m based in Japan which is close to South Korea will work to my favour since I’m used to running in the conditions,” the Japan based athlete expressed.
Double world champion, Kenenisa Bekele and his Ethiopian team mate, Sileshi Sihine, motored away from Mathathi at the bell to secure the 1-2 finish at the time.
Mathathi added: “As you know, I have been there before so we have been learning from those people from countries like Ethiopia and Eritrea and I know their tactics. We are very strong in the team and we will do better than before.”
The athlete who turned to road running after his Osaka experience decided to concentrate on track racing with the Daegu Worlds and next year’s London Olympics firmly in his sights.
“I believe I’m going to do something for my country and that is why I chose to focus on this events,” he explained the change in career course.
Peter Kirui, who stunned even himself when he won the Kenyan Trials a fortnight ago at Nyayo, is relishing his chance to star in the limelight at the Worlds.
“I’m very happy to be among those who are representing my country at the World Championships and it will be special since it will be my first time.
I’m going to work with my team mates to ensure we bring the medals home, that is why we came here early,” the 23-year-old who joined the Administration Police in April stated.
The athlete who idolises Kenenisa and Haile may not be easily recognised by many but he was the rabbit at last year’s Chicago Marathon where he was designated to pace the late Olympic champion, Samuel Wanjiru to victory last October.
“I’m planning to run the Lille Half Marathon or pace at Chicago again. I’m so sorry that Wanjiru passed away but his death taught me to be patient. Once you make some money in the sport, invest it wisely,” Kirui, who intends to leave a legacy like a stadium or school named after him when he retires from the sport, expressed.
Head coach, Peter Mathu, gave thumps up for the men 10000m squad for their commitment to the course noting, “The fact that they reported without their delay is a sign they are eager to do their best. It’s still early but the team work they have displayed since coming here is a positive sign they are in the right frame of mind to succeed.”
Paul Kipkoech (1987) and Moses Tanui (1991) are the only other Kenyans apart from Kamathi to be adorned with the 25-lap race world medal but the class of Daegu 2011 are keen to have one of their own ascend to the middle of the podium next month.