NAIROBI, Kenya, May 5- The wagging of the finger that made Kenya’s two-time 1,500m world champion, Abel Kiprop, be accused of showmanship, but he made a comeback with booking a place in the inaugural IAAF World Relays in Bahamas.
As the selected squad continues to train for the event at their residential camp in Nairobi, Kiprop heads for the May 24-25 showpiece in Bahamas as the marquee athlete in the team of 30.
It was during the April 25 Trials for Bahamas that Kiprop, 24, won his individual time trial in a world leading 3:36.55 before anchoring his team to victory in the subsequent relay.
As he came in for the finish to the 4x1500m relay, his friend Nixon Chepseba was chasing Kiprop hard over the homestretch when the champion slowed, wagged his finger before using his long strides to fend off the challenger.
With no pressure at all, he could afford to indulge himself in showboating, an aspect of his game he had cut off his repertoire after a series of major disappointments in his earlier carrier.
“Nothing gives me greater joy than to compete for my country and I’m pleased to have made the Bahamas team. The chance to win another gold medal for the country is exciting.”
“This is the first event of this kind to be held and being among the first winners will be historic. With my team mates, we will work to ensure we go ahead and bring victory,” the Daegu and Moscow world champion said.
“Oh, that! It did not mean anything at all; I just wanted to make my fans happy. I now take everything I do seriously and I’m out to achieve as much as I can,” the 2008 Beijing Olympics champion said on his gesture.
As a rookie athlete and fresh from winning the 2007 All Africa Games crown in Algiers, Kiprop was criticised when the following season, he wagged his finger at his rivals in a show of jest.
He had just won his semi final of the men 800m at the Africa Championships in Addis Ababa before taking bronze in the medal race.
Undeterred, he continued being a show pony any time he won at the Kenyan Trials before going on to miss the 2007 and 2009 world titles but ahead of the Daegu Worlds in 2011, his attitude towards his opponents changed.
Having been awarded 2008 Olympics gold when disgraced Bahrain runner, Rashid Ramzi, was sanctioned for drug use, Kiprop put his act together to win the following two world crowns and the 2010 African title despite injury slowing his progress at the London 2012 Olympics.
With a Bahamas team featuring Kiprop, Commonwealth champion, Silas Kiplagat, Collins Cheboi, Joseph Magut, Hillary Maiyo and Chepseba, Kenya has the six fastest metric milers on the planet in the World Relays squad.
This potent squad is eyeing the 14:36.23 world record in the 4x1500m set by their compatriots Augustine Choge, William Tanui (now Tanui Oblizhen of Turkey), Gideon Gathimba and Geoffrey Rono at the Van Damme Memorial in Brussels.
“We are capable since all of us have gone under 3:28 and if we perfect the change over, we are capable of returning home with the world record and the gold,” Kiprop asserted.
He underlined his intentions of attempting the long-standing 3:26.00 men 1500m all time best set by his idol, Hicham El Guerrouj, this season.
“It’s still too early in the season to talk about breaking the world record but being no major championship this year, I will train to run faster. For once, I’ve started the season without injury and my pre-season training has gone according to plan. My focus at the moment is to make a good start in the Diamond League in Doha and Bahamas.”
“After that, anything is possible,” the 3:27.72 personal best runner who will launch his outdoor campaign at Friday’s Qatar Super Grand Prix in the opening IAAF Diamond League opener in Doha explained.
With the Commonwealth, Africa Championships and World Cup to come, Kiprop has the events to add to his already bulging medal collection after his Bahamas assignment.