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Kiplagat out to walk in Kiptanui’s shoes

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NAIROBI, Kenya, August 15- Since his retirement from competition over a decade ago, thrice world steeplechase men champion, Moses Kiptanui continues to have an imprint on the Kenyan team he represented with glowing pride.

His running spikes may have weathered from 11 years of misuse but he is making good use of his whistle having turned to coaching, with one his best students, Silas Kiplagat, on the verge of making history.

Born in Marakwet, the hub of steeplechase running, Kiplagat chose to go for 1500m rather than follow his idol in becoming a world beating water and barriers race exponent but Kiptanui’s impression on the rising Metric Miler is out for all to see.

Inside a week, he blasted to a soil record and world lead as he won the Kenyan Trials for Daegu in 3:31.39 (June 16) before travelling to Monaco and blasting to 3:30.47 (July 22) that is unmatched so far this season.

They were performances his mentor, who at his heyday made a habit of stringing together such emphatic displays, would be proud off.

So, how did Kiplagat, who also has inherited a huge dose of the swagger his coach was renowned for, prime himself for the two races that have catapulted him to the outright favourite for the gold medal when the 13th World Championships kick-off?

“I had prepared myself with my coach Moses Kiptanui very well for the last two weeks and my shape was like for last year. What is more important is to win gold for Kenya.”

Such is the tight bond between Kiplagat and his mentor that he declared he would religiously follow his programme at the national team’s training camp.

“If I follow my coaches’ programme, I will become the first Kenyan to win gold in 1500m. Last year, I was the first in ten years to win the race in Commonwealth. I’m very proud of making Kenya team to the World Championships for the first time. To beat top athletes in Kenya is not an easy task.”

Watching the 2010 Delhi winner who incidentally announced his arrival in the Metric Mile radar with his 3:29.27 world lead at last year’s Monaco GP training at Team Kenya’s base, it is evident he is living up to his resolve.

Often, he is in the company of world steeplechase champion, another under Kiptanui’s charge, going through their paces together, none keen on veering off the course set by the master.

“I brought the programme of my coach since one month cannot change someone and I’m happy we have been allowed to train with it. This means I will not lose my shape,” he emphasises.

Despite harbouring lofty individual aspiration, Kiplagat is aware he is competing in a team saying he would be glad to give his all for the squad that seeks to erase the bewildering statistic.

“Of course, I’m ready to work with my team mates since like we saw in Delhi, together we can achieve even more and break the competition since it will be tough.”

But for Kiplagat, nothing would make him happier than emulating his decorated coach in Daegu.

“Winning a World Championships like him would be the best thing I have ever done. If I ever get to three, then I will think of giving it up but for the moment, I’m focused on winning my first.”

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