Athletics Athletics

Soi eyes London joy by killing fear


NAIROBI, Kenya, March 14- A hat-trick of medals in three competitions for his country places Edwin Soi among a selected group of runners who have shone for Kenya without receiving due acclaim.

On his Team Kenya debut, Soi returned home with Olympics bronze in 2008 before donning the national strip again two years later where he capitalised on a costly slip by Vincent Yator in the last 50m to strike African gold in Nairobi in his preferred 5000m race.

After missing the subsequent Delhi Commonwealth Games and last year’s World Championships, he resurfaced at the Istanbul World Indoors and left Turkey with bronze in 3000m.

“When I compete for my country on the track, I always run with the strength of the entire nation in my shoulders. I do not depend on myself and on my mind, it’s not about the money,” Soi talked of his proud medal record.

In a nation where there is an abundance of distance running decorated talent, Soi knows his achievements will be swept under the rags unless he wins the biggest prize, the Olympics gold in London this summer.

To attain this dream, the runner has retreated to his training base in Kericho to plot on a spirited assault on the top medal keen to eliminate what he cites as his biggest stumbling block-fear.

“I’m always tense before races and it affects everyone as well. Even before the men 3000m final in Istanbul, I was so nervous at the warm-up that I was thinking if there were a replacement, I would have gladly given up the chance to him.

“My aim is to ensure before the national Trials, I have overcome this disease of tension that has cost me a number of chances to represent my country,” the Beijing bronze winner underlined.

With a glut of polished runners in his preferred race, Soi knows it will take something special to stand in the middle of the podium in London and he is scheming to provide it.

“First, I will have to overcome what is the toughest Trial on earth then from there, I have to retain enough energy to see that I get into a good position in London if I make it.

“Most of the runners we competed against in Istanbul will be in London and from what we all saw, it will be tough since some who were not there will also be in the field. It all depends on the preparations and that is where I want to focus,” he explained.

On his performance in Turkey, Soi noted his delight after being reinstated as the bronze medal winner following a protest launched against him by Team GB that saw him disqualified by a referee over an alleged push on Worlds 5000m champion, Mo Farah.

“To be honest, I do not know what happened; all that I’m aware of is that both Farah and (Bernard) Lagat were speaking before the race about my finishing kick and how to handle it.

“During the race, there was a lot of pushing and someone was trying to destabilise me by clipping on the soles of my shoes but I continued running. At the final curve due to the elevation of the track, we leaned on each other but I stayed on my lane,” he said.

Soi who was timed at 7:41.78 for the third medal in Turkey on his World Indoors debut urged his compatriots to embrace the spirit of teamwork to ensure the country returns with more medals from London.

“The race had many 1500m runners who could sprint fast in the end and we planned with Augustine (Choge) to go out fast so that we could thin the field. This worked since at the end, there were only four runners in it and the medal chances were greater.

“My colleagues should learn how to work together because sometimes, we lose chances to bring medals since some tend to run by themselves. When running for our country, it does not matter who wins, what matters most is Kenya wins.”

The African 5000m titleholder thanked the team’s management for reacting quickly to save his medal.

“Our team manager (Barnabas Korir) was very quick to go to the TIA and appeal in the middle of the confusion and after reviewing the video, they found nothing wrong with what I had done and I’m grateful.

“My plan was to bring a bigger medal but in the end, Lagat was tactically stronger and my team mate Choge faster and I’m satisfied with what I got. The challenge for me is to go and prepare well for the Olympics.”

American Lagat won gold with Choge taking the silver in a thrilling tactical race where the veteran winner timed his final sprint to perfection.

“If there is one athlete who should be in the Olympics team, then it is Soi. He is a fighter for the team and a strong runner whom you know will get you something and I’m pleased the selectors picked him,” Korir hailed the bronze winner.

Despite stating he took up the sport to mint money, the runner who has illuminated the international circuit is nonetheless proving to be a handy medal minting machine for his nation when given the chance.