NAIROBI, Kenya, May 25- Until October 30 last year, few would have bet on Wilson Kipsang making the Kenyan marathon team for the London Olympics.
If you go further back, roughly seven years ago, he was an unassuming Kenya Police Constable serving in the far-flung border town of Isebania, Kuria District where his usual days were spent reeling in those found in foul of the law.
“Yes, I actually did police work, arresting offenders, settling disputes, investigating cases and appearing in court as a prosecution witness,” the two-time Frankfurt and now London Marathon titleholder asserted.
Before that, the current blue eyed boy of marathon running had tried his hand as a salesman, peddling maize, potatoes and charcoal from their family and neighbouring farms in Egerton.
“After running business for three years, I attended recruitment for Kenya Police and was successful and I was off to Kiganjo Police Training College,” he told.
It was at the force where at the encouragement of established runners, he reconnected with his running talent that was prevalent in his learning days at Muskut Primary and Tambach Secondary schools.
“Commonwealth Games and Africa 3,000 metres steeplechase champion Richard Mateelong and Suleiman Simotwo have thriving careers in athletics and they pushed me to do well,” he recounted.
Using income from his salary as a constable, Kipsang invested in training shoes and kit and after requesting his superiors for time off to train in 2005, the aspiring athlete was granted leave to train at the high altitude area of Kaptagat where the seeds of his bludgeoning career were sown.
Fast forward to May 2012, Kipsang is justifiably touted as the first pick among the aspiring heirs to the crown won by fellow Kenya Police officer, the late Samuel Wanjiru, who made history in Beijing as the first man from his nation to bag the Olympics Marathon title.
Wanjiru’s winning performance of 2:06:32 accounts for the championship record and for Kipsang, the driving aim is to ensure the ultimate distance title does not escape Kenya Police custody on August 12.
“It is very important because the defending champion is no longer there so as Wilson Kipsang, the aim is to go there on his behalf and defend the title.
“I’m focused very well on the Olympics. I have to make sure the speed, long runs and healthy are in order before the Games,” Kipsang declared.
During the Kenya Police Championships that ran a fortnight ago, Kipsang was at the centre of attraction as his mates sought his attention as he got a first taste of the weight of expectations placed on his shoulders.
Many posed for photos as they engaged the man they believe will nail his country and Kenya Police flag in the middle podium mast in hearty banter and words of encouragement.
“My expectations in London are go for the gold but there is pressure since it will be very competitive. We have tough guys from Ethiopia and do not forget even our own Kenyans but I believe we shall work together to ensure that this gold returns home,” he explained.
Kipsang who was fourth in the men 10000m race where he raced 28:41.3 said the workout was crucial to his build-up for the main event.
“I came here to see whether my body has recovered from London. I toured the Olympics course and I have to ensure that I can run faster through the corners and climb the many hills faster during training but other than that, my programme remains the same.”
Kipsang, who will team up with double world gold medallist, Abel Kirui and Chicago Marathon record holder, Moses Mosop in London has seen his ultimate distance career soar in the last two years.
Having finished third (2:07:13) in the 2010 Paris Marathon in April, he went on to place himself firmly on the map when he won that year’s Frankfurt race in a then course record of 2:04:57, the third fastest time of the year in October.
Having won the Otsu Marathon in March (2:06:13) in March last year, Kipsang stole headlines on October 30 when he defended his Frankfurt crown in 2:03:42 that was only four second shy of the world record set by Patrick Makau in Berlin barely three weeks prior.
In his World Marathon Majors debut in London on April 22, he blew away one of the most potent fields that has ever been assembled for a marathon that included five of his rivals for the Olympics ticket when once again, he missed Emmanuel Mutai’s course record by four seconds! The clock stopped at 2:04:44.
“I have no idea what it is with number four but having come close twice, I believe the next time I will be on top by the same margin. I felt great in London such that at some point, I had to go to the pacemakers and pick up the pace,” Kipsang told of his close brush with history.
“I know I’m one of the favourites for the Olympics and this means I have to train even harder since everyone will be out to use me as a target,” the official holder of the number 2 fastest marathon mark of all time underlined.