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‘Chairman’ Koech seeks speed for Beijing

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Caleb Mwangangi beats Isaiah Kiplangat at the Commonwealth Trials last year. PHOTO/File
Caleb Mwangangi beats Isaiah Kiplangat (left) at the Commonwealth Trials last year. PHOTO/File

NAIROBI, June 22 – Moscow Worlds bronze winner, Isaiah Kiplagat Koech is out to work on his speed to give his Beijing hopes a lift ahead of the Kenya Trials end month.

Koech, the world indoor junior record holder, has a tough battle on his hands to make the Beijing men 5000m squad with Commonwealth, African and Diamond League champion, Caleb Mwangangi and the resurgent Daegu 2011 bronze medallist, Thomas Longosiwa ahead of him on the queue.

Other in the anticipated star studded line-up in the 12 and a half lap-race include 2008 Beijing Olympics bronze medallist, Edwin Soi, World Cross silver winner, Bedan Karoki, Emmanuel Bett and 2011 World Cross silver winner Paul Tanui.

Koech, who has a seasonal best of 13:07.33 he set in Rome, said he has enough endurance but needs to work on his finishing power that cost him the title he has been chasing since graduating to seniors at the 2011 Daegu Worlds.

“My body is responding well after a two-month hamstring injury and I have the stamina but I need to work on my final 400m lap. I’ve been concentration on 600m, 1000m, 2000m and 1200m in training but not done enough of 400m.

“From now I concentrate to run 10-lap races a day and if clock under 54, I will be in perfect shape to challenge for the title that has evaded us for a very long time,” Koech, who has a 5000m personal best of 12:53.29 set in 2011 underscored.

The 22-year-old is yet to pick a win this season after finishing second in Birmingham behind winner Longosiwa (13:11.22), before being floored in the Nationals by Kamworor.

In 3000m, he settled for sixth in Doha (7:40.39) before clocking 7:37.16 in his last race in Monaco where he rounded the podium.

Kenya will be out to reclaim the title that was last lifted by Benjamin Limo at the 2005 edition in Helsinki, Finland and Koech claims it will only be achieved if the team that will be selected to carry the country’s flag embrace team work.

Ethiopian great and 2008 Beijing Olympic champion, Kenenisa Bekele still holds both  world record holds in 5000m (12:37.35) and 10000m (26:17.53).

“Since world record holder Kenenisa left, there is no race that has been won under 13:10, so it will be competitive since everyone will be out to improve their personal best. Last year, I was not in a good form but I managed a podium finish.

“I’m going for gold or silver but not bronze any more. Mo Farah is beatable so long as we have team work because that’s what we have been lacking in previous championships.

“It’s possible to reclaim the title but it will depend on people who will make the team, if we cooperate we will bring it back I’m sure,” Koech, who’s famously known as ‘Chairman’ owing to the closeness of his name to long-serving Athletics Kenya president, Isaiah Kiplagat, explained.

-Chebii’s reincarnation-

When the powerful runner first broke out to the scene, he was soon being tagged as the reincarnation of Abraham Chebii, who exploded in 2003 when, at the height of his powers, he ran the 5000m four times under 13 minutes and out-kicked the feared Ethiopian duo of Haile Gebrselassie and Kenenisa in Rome.

But unlike Chebii, who fizzled out after his barnstorming season, the Keringet village born middle child in a family of eight has enjoyed an upward career trajectory since he presented his credentials to the athletics fraternity by striking gold at the 2009 World Youth Championships in Bressanone.

Since 2010, the moniker ‘Chairman’ has stuck to him like super glue in parody to the AK chief and this is the tag the soft spoken runner has taken upon himself to shed and forge his own identity with passion, by letting his legs do the talking.

“My name is Kiplangat but since everyone has been writing Kiplagat, I now want to be known as Koech,” he charged with a tinge of defiance.

“I respect the (AK) chairman as a father figure and that is why I want to leave the chairing to him. My work is to run,” he added.

With two World junior indoor records under his belt at the beginning of 2011 (7:37.50 at 3000m and a12:53.29 at 5000m), Koech had already served notice of his talent.

The seed to his running career was sowed after the 2008 World Junior Championships in Bydgoszcz, Poland when his village pal, Josphat Bett, became the toast of town when he returned to a roaring reception with the 10,000m gold adorning his neck.

 

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