NAIROBI, July 30- Kenya’s Olympic and world steeplechase champion Ezekiel Kemboi is not ready to bow out yet as a pair of youngsters prepare to take up the mantle in the country’s top event.
The 33-year-old steeplechaser joined a list of renowned athletes to have won three world titles in Moscow two years ago, and he’s ready to chase down his fourth title in Beijing next month.
“I am looking forward to going to Beijing and winning my fourth world title,” Kemboi, who is also a two-time Olympic champion told AFP.
Kemboi has a wild card for the world championships by virtue of being a defending champion, but he must still compete and finish among the top three to be guaranteed selection at the Kenya trials which get underway at Nairobi’s Kasarani stadium on Friday.
The double Olympic champion is currently ranked third behind two younger challengers, Conseslus Kipruto and Jarius Kipchoge Birech, the Commonwealth silver medallist and winner of the prestigious Diamond League in the 2014 season.
Kemboi has dominated the event for some 13 years, winning Olympic gold in Athens in 2004, but he has struggled to keep up with the new generation this season, trailing home in seventh place in his most recent race at the Paris Diamond League meet earlier this month.
His only victory of the season came at the Prefontaine Classic in Eugene, Oregon, in May, when he returned the world leading time of 8:01.71, relegating Birech into second place.
“It is difficult to rule out Kemboi from winning his fourth title in Beijing. He knows he’s a championship athlete and will always rise to the occasion on the big day,” said Joseph Kinyua, a former Athletics Kenya treasurer and the team’s boss for the Beijing world championships.
But with Birech, currently riding high in this season’s Diamond league series, and Kipruto, 20, just getting back to form after a long-injury lay-off, Kemboi will face a crucial test.