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Kiprop leading Kenya’s middle-distance charge


Series on Olympic Scholarship Holders Beijing 2008: today Asbel Kiprop.

Ever since Kip Keino won the Olympic 1500 metres title in Mexico City in 1968, the Kenyan people have looked to their middle- and long-distance runners for inspiration, and never have they been in more need of it than now. In a year which began so tragically for them, Olympic success will go a little way towards healing their wounds, and if 19-year-old Asbel Kiprop has his way, then he will be doing some of that healing.

“We have to forget what happened”
Kiprop comes from Kaptinga village near Eldoret, scene of some of the worst violence following last December’s presidential elections, including the death of former Olympic athlete Lucas Sang. Kiprop trains nearby, at the internationally renowned Kip Keino High Performance Training Centre. “The athletes know what happened and how it affected them,” said Keino, now President of the Kenyan Olympic Committee. “We have to forget what happened and move on with the training.”

World junior champion
Kiprop’s colleague Luke Kibet, the world marathon champion, was hit on the head by a stone during the fighting and is now rated a doubtful contender for Beijing. Kiprop, fortunately, emerged unscathed and has picked up where he left off last year when he became world junior cross country champion. “That victory was my turning point,” he said. “I felt on top of the world and I have never looked back.”

“I’m just 9.24 seconds away from the world record”
He went on to become All-Africa 1500m champion before finishing fourth in the World Championships in Osaka with a personal best of 3:35.24. “I am just 9.24 seconds away from the world record in the 1500 metres,” said Kiprop after that race, a record held by his track idol Hicham El Guerrouj. “Although only Bernard Lagat has come close to the record in six years, I believe the time is now ripe for another attempt.”

Middle-distance double?
Like Keino and his father before him, who also ran the 1500m and came fourth in the 1987 All-Africa Games, Kiprop has recently enrolled in the Kenyan police force. Furthermore, he is qualified for the Games in the 800m as well as the 1500m**. One way or another, Kiprop is a name we are likely to hear much more of.

For the Beijing Olympic Games, Olympic Solidarity has awarded a total of 1,088 scholarships to 166 National Olympic Committees in 21 individual Olympic sports.


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