BARCELONA, Spain, June 16- London Olympics bound Faith Chepng’etich and Conseslus Kipruto know each other well.
They were part of the team that went to the French city of Lille for the IAAF World Youth Championships 12 months ago and there they both won gold medals and shared the flag traditionally tossed out from the stands to medallists on their lap of honour.
After getting reacquainted on this trip to Spain, the process of passing over the flag was repeated on Sunday as they both took World Junior Championships title within 15 minutes of each other.
Into the bargain, they set Championships records, with Kipruto able to take some of the credit for inspiring his team-mate to success and beating a very tough mark.
“I didn’t see his race as I was warming up but when I came into the stadium to start my race, there was a replay of what he had done on the big screen and our team were still cheering for him,” said the quietly spoken Kipyegon, a schoolgirl at the appropriately named Winners High School in the Rift valley town of Nakuru.
“Seeing him do this, that made me very determined to win and take a gold medal for myself.”
Kipyegon made winning look remarkably easy despite her fast time of 4:04.96 which erased from the record books the 20-year-old mark of 4:05.14 which had been held by China’s Liu Dong since 1992, a time established 18 months before Kipyegon was born.
“I am very happy with the time. I was hoping to also improve my personal best of 4:03.82 (which is also the Kenyan junior record),” she added, in a very matter-of-fact fashion.
By coincidence, Dong – an original member of the famed Ma’s Army or Chinese runners who re-wrote the record books in the 1990s and who went on to win the 1500m gold medal the following year at the 1993 World Championships – is highly likely to have watched her record consigned to history on television as she has resided in the Spanish capital Madrid for several years.
Kipyegon herself has a big senior championship looming up as she is one of only two members of the Kenyan team in Barcelona that will be going to the Olympic Games in London, along with men’s 800m silver medallist Timothy Kitum.
Being away from home for so long means that to keep up with the curriculum at her school she has had to study on the move and has brought her mathematics and home science text books to Europe.
“I have them with me. I know that my classmates will be studying back home, hence the need for me to keep myself busy while away. I have a schedule I have to stick to,” added the diminutive 18-year-old, who obviously has an affinity for Spain as she won the World Cross Country Championships junior women’s title in Punta Umbria last year.
Kipruto also had a schedule to keep to in Barcelona but his was on the blue track of the Montjuic Olympic Stadium, one that would lead him to breaking the six-year-old Championships record of his compatriot Willy Komen.
Komen’s time in 2006, when the Championships were staged in Beijing as a prelude to the Olympics two years later, was 8:14.00 but it was a measure of Kipruto’s stunning run of 8:06.10, perhaps the men’s track performance of these Championships despite many other worthy contenders, that the former would have finished around 50 metres in arrears if the pair had been running head-to-head.
“I really wanted to run a fast time, certainly to break the Championships record, and hopefully get close to eight minutes. Gilbert (Kirui, the silver medallist) agreed to pace me for the first two kilometres as we saw no one who could be a danger to him finishing second; and then I went away on my own.
“I saw the clock at the bell and it said 7:05 and I thought I could do a 58 seconds last lap but that was too much and it turned out to be 61 seconds,” reflected Kipruto, who is remarkably talkative and expansive for a young Kenyan runner.
Kipruto secured Kenya’s 13th consecutive 3000m Steeplechase title at the World Junior Championships – they have won the event every time it has been contested as the very first Championships in 1986 featured a 2000m Steeplechase – and moved up to fourth on the junior all-time list for the event, but such is the Kenyan domination of the event that he is ‘only’ fourth on the Kenyan junior rankings.
Unlike Kipyegon, Kipruto is not going to be in London but he will be a familiar face on the international circuit in the coming months and his next outing will be at the Samsung Diamond League meeting in Monaco next Friday (20).
“Maybe next year I will be able to challenge to go to the World Championships. At the moment, I still train with a group of young boys (in a group based near the Kenyan running Mecca of Eldoret) but they are complaining that I am beating them too easily and that I should go and train with the seniors,” he joked.
“I think I will now have to do that. Runners like Ezekiel Kemboi, Brimin Kipruto, Paul Kipsiele Koech and Richard Mateelong are my heroes and I like them a lot but now it is time for me to race them.”
It’s fairly sure that news of Kipruto’s run will have already reached home by the time you read this and this year’s top dogs in the Kenyan steeple chasing pound will be aware that it isn’t a timid and frightened young puppy that will be joining their pack.
Chepng’etich and Kipruto brought Kenya’s final tally to four gold, four silver and five bronze medals for a total of 13 to finish second to United States who bagged 20 (nine gold, four silver, seven bronze).
It is their late surge for glory that overhauled arch rivals, Ethiopia, who finished third (three gold, three silver and a bronze) having led the African chart into the final day.
BARCELONA 2012 MEDALLISTS
Faith Chepng’etich Kipyegon 1500 Metres W
Mercy Chebwogen 3000 Metres W
Conseslus Kipruto 3000 Metres Steeplechase M
Daisy Jepkemei 3000 Metres Steeplechase W
Philemon Kipchilis Cheboi 10,000 Metres M
Hillary Cheruiyot Ngetich 1500 Metres M
Gilbert Kiplangat Kirui 3000 Metres Steeplechase M
Timothy Kitum 800 Metres M
Geoffrey Kipkorir Kirui 10,000 Metres M
Stella Jepkosgei Rutto 3000 Metres Steeplechase W
Wiliam Malel Sitonik 5000 Metres M
Agnes Jebet Tirop 5000 Metres W
Edwin Kiplagat Melly 800 Metres M