NAIROBI, Kenya, April 3- When he burst to scene at the 2007 All Africa Games, Asbel Kiprop was quickly labelled as the heir-apparent to Morocco’s retired double Olympics champion and record holder Hicham El Guerrouj.
Despite a number of false starts and implosions at major events, the lanky Kiprop, who amazingly is yet to celebrate his 23rd birthday, stands as the Olympics, World and Africa 1500m titleholder with sights firmly set on his ultimate goal.
“Every medal I win get’s me motivated to better my hero, El Guerrouj. I want to be like the person, he was tough in the mind, tough in 1500m, tough in the Mile, tough in 2K.
“He is unbelievable; he won two gold medals at the 2004 Olympics Games. I’m looking forward to start running the double at the 2013 World Championships; I will be doing both 800m and 1500m,” Kiprop charged.
He added: “I will be going to the Worlds as a defending champion and at the Kenyan Trials I will do the 800m and I’m sure I will qualify.”
But with the biennial global event still a season away, Kiprop is gearing to hold on to the title he won after Bahrain’s Rashid Ramzy was stripped off the Olympics gold after being found guilty of doping.
“Receiving the Olympics gold medal at home in Nairobi last year was exciting and makes me special to some extent since I got the first Olympics gold medal in Africa. I have never heard it happen elsewhere.
“But just like in Korea, I want to win it on the track and hear the national anthem played at the stadium and although competition will be tough, I believe I can do it.”
Until last year’s Kenyan Trials for the Daegu World Championships, Kiprop had not tasted defeat at home soil for over three years.
Commonwealth champion, Silas Kiplagat, snapped that proud record in spectacular fashion as he upset the reigning national champion.
Kiplagat showed a devastating turn of pace to blast to a soil record of 3:31.39 and the mark would have been more astronomical had he not turned back in the last 50m to taunt Kiprop who came home in 3:32.26 for second.
The Olympics champion was clearly stung by the defeat and this compelled him to put his act together for what turned to be a successful outing at the Worlds in South Korea.
“I was surprised, Silas never won in the heats, in the semis he hid himself and I had won everything in the heats and semis. I was thinking of Nixon Chepseba and in the last 300m he, was gone and he came as a surprise.
“Silas winning the Trials kept me from a lot of attention. I watched his interview on YouTube where he said that when he kicks from 300m, I will not get him as opposed to if I kick from 100m so at the World Championships, I was very keen in the last 300m and reacted to him and that is how I won.”
Kiprop, who despite winning the World junior title in 2007 does not enjoy cross country running, laid out his credentials in January when he topped an imposing field for the Bupa Great Edinburgh Cross title.
In the process, he handed Ethiopia’s great, Kenenisa Bekele only his third cross country defeat.
“In 2008, I raced in the cross country circuit here in Kenya and I performed well at the Olympics. I applied the same tactics this year ahead of my title defence and I’m hoping the results will be the same,” he elaborated.
Only last season, the athlete not known to shy away from showmanship and grand talk on occasion pledged to quit his metric mile speciality if he did not dip under the 3:30 threshold.
“Yes, it true I had said that but I ended a season with a world lead of 3:30.46. I have not done a 3:29, 3:28 but I have ran 2:46 and 2:44 in training at 1200m and this is much faster if you run 41 seconds in the last 400m that would be 3:26.
“I’m working with my coaches to make sure I achieve that time on the track this season.”
Having stated his wish to step up to the 5000m last year, Kiprop shed light on his fresh preference to double in the 800m and 1500m.
“I watched the Olympics in 2004 where El Guerrouj doubled in the 1500m and 5000m and I wanted to do the same.
“But I have grown to like running the races that everybody likes watching in the track and events in the middle distance bring attention to the fans and they are competitive.”
But for now, London Olympics remain his chief obsession.
“The Kenyan Trials will be very tough. I keep being focused, training hard and listening to coaches.”
“I have to watch the competitors, I have keenly watching how they are racing their build-ups and my aim is to win an Olympics medal preferably gold.”