NAIROBI, Kenya, Sep 13- Olympic champion Eliud Kipchoge has admitted he is under pressure as he prepares to break the World Record at the Berlin Marathon on September 24 with stiff competition expected from compatriot Wilson Kipsang and Ethiopian Kenenisa Bekele.
Kipchoge holds the unofficial time for the fastest marathon ever, having run the 42km race in 2:00:25 at the Monza Formula One track in Italy in May in the ‘Breaking Two’ project undertaken by his sponsors Nike.
He says the expectation to run a similar race as well as the tag of being an Olympic Champion puts pressure on his shoulders, but just as cool as he is says he can deal with it perfectly well.
“With the three of us I think I am the only one under pressure heading to the race in Berlin. If the two of them have 40 percent pressure, then I have 95 percent because of the time I ran in Monza and the Olympic gold as well. I have a lot of pressure,” Kipchoge admitted.
He expects a stiff challenge from the two top athletes with Bekele and Kipsang, a former world record holder not mincing their words, also proclaiming their desire to lower Kenya’s Dennis Kimetto record of 2:02:57 set on the same course in 2014.
“All of us are top athletes. It is a quality field of athletes and I respect the two very much. But when I started my athletics career 14 years ago, my coach told me one thing; your biggest competitor is you. I expect a tough and beautiful race but at the end of the day, there will only be one winner,” smiling Kipchoge told Capital Sport.
He feels he has done enough in training to be ready for the big project and he exudes confidence that he can actually lower the time in a city that has seen the record brought down six times over the last 14 years.
While Kipsang tasted the joy of lowering the record in 2013, Bekele came within six seconds of setting a new one during the Berlin marathon last year, running a personal best of 2:03:03 in winning the title.
Kipchoge has himself come inches close to setting a new record during the 2016 London Marathon, coming only eight seconds shy of Kimetto’s record after clocking in 2:03:05. He famously looked at the screen and smiled in regret, having slowed down in the final few kilometers of the race.
-Back to Berlin-
The 33-year old will not be new to the Berlin Marathon having won it in 2015 with a time of 2:04:00, despite running almost three quarters of the race with his insoles flapping off his shoes. He was also in the field in 2013 when Kipsang broke the record finishing second in 2:04:05.
As he prepares for the race in the German capital, Kipchoge received a boost when he was unveiled as the official Isuzu brand ambassador on Wednesday morning, in a deal amounting to close to Sh14m.
In the one-year renewable deal Kipchoge will be earn Sh7m and will be given an Isuzu D-max for training and personal use.
The motor vehicle manufacturer have also given Kipchoge an incentive heading to Berlin that they will reward him with a D-Max Luxury double cab worth Sh5.9mn if he breaks the record.
“This is a great endorsement for me coming two weeks to the race in Berlin. It will push me to go out there and perform well. I think it is time athletes and corporates engage more because I believe it is a win-win situation for both,” Kipchoge said.
“I think the problem is the know-how from both the athletes and corporate organizations. We should engage more with each other because I believe there is a lot each can benefit with,” the two-time London Marathon world champion added.
“We have signed up with Eliud because over the years he has demonstrated strength, resilience and reliability in his performance. He has not failed and that resonates well with our Isuzu D-Max that we are giving him,” Isuzu East Africa Chief Financial Officer Charles Kariuki said.
Kariuki whose company has a partnership with the Kenya Rugby Union as their official transport partner has at the same time urged more corporate to come on board and help sports stars who fly the country’s flag raise their standards.