Capital FM (Nairobi)

4 February 2014

Kenya: Maths Guru Kemboi Eyes World Record

At 31, Ezekiel Kemboi is showing no signs of slowing down in his quest to further embellish his reputation as the greatest steeplechaser of all time.

As he goes through a phase in his career when most of his contemporaries are stepping up the distance to the roads or hanging their spikes, Kemboi avers he's not done yet as he launches the pursuit of the only thing missing from his loaded mantelpiece of honours.

As if two Olympic and three world titles, Commonwealth crown and continental honours in the water and barriers race is not enough to confirm his status as arguably the best steeplechaser of all ages, Kemboi has set his sights on owning the world record this season.

In a bold statement of intent from an athlete who does not flinch from setting grand targets every year, the reigning Olympics and Worlds crown bearer says it is time, "To bring the steeplechase record home."

"This year, I want to concentrate more on times. I know I have some good times and want to improve on them. At first, I wanted to win all the medals not the world record.

"The world record will come in that particular space of time that I have set to run fast times," Kemboi, the 7:55.76 career best runner, said while giving one of his most candid media interviews in recent times at the opening of the Lornah Kiplagat Sports Academy in Iten.

To achieve his objective, he must beat the 7:53.63 world record set by Kenyan-born Qatari, Saif Saeed Shaheen, who is only 143 days younger than his former compatriot, in 2004.

Shaheen famously forced Kemboi to accept silver at the 2003 and 2005 Worlds in Stuttgart and Helsinki before compatriot Brimin Kipruto, stunned him in Osaka 2007.

Since then, Berlin 2009, Daegu 2011 and Moscow 2013, Kemboi has reigned supreme, adding the London 2012 Olympics gold to his Athens 2004 triumph where Shaheen, formerly Stephen Cherono, was forced to miss as a result of his nationality switch the year before.

Marathon switch

After his triumph in Daegu, Kemboi declared he would switch to the roads and race in the ultimate distance only to return the following season to recapture the Olympics title.

"I always change my mind, sometimes, I want to go to marathon but my coach, manager and sponsors Nike who have been with me for 12 years keep on telling me to continue running the steeple," the championship running doyen revealed.

He then explains how he has grown to be almost invincible on the grandest stages in recent times by outfoxing the best in the world time and time again.

"I always do my timing well and knowing what to do at a particular time (in the race). I associate well with people and get their ideas and you need to respect other athletes."

Kemboi details what motivated him to go for the World Championships hat-trick in Moscow last season where he swatted the spirited challenge of World Junior titleholder, Conseslus Kipruto, to win in 8:06.01.

"I wanted to win three gold medals after winning three silver medals. That gave me one of the biggest challenges in life and taught me never to lose hope in life.

"I want to do things in a better way this year and maybe plan for a world record, maybe," the athlete who has ran 29 races under 8:10 and three under 8:00 in his career outlined.

Tactical master class

While most champions have one thing going for them on track, be it searing finishing pace or the ability to grind down the opposition by motoring around the laps forcefully, Kemboi has proven to be the master of mugging the competition with bolts from the blue.

In Berlin, he and Mateelong scorched the finalists with electric pace from the third lap before a sudden switch of pace between 300m and the last water jump brought him home in lane 8 in Daegu.

The switching of lanes was repeated in London where he left the competition for dead from 350m while sustained acceleration over the homestretch earned him the glory.

"I read people's mind during the race and know when to attack. I always know what to do. When we are in the race, I always do my own calculation and use my simple mathematics to conquer the race."

Despite being the most medalled and recognisable athlete on the planet, the runner who is also an accomplished showman would love to be remembered as, "a simple Kenyan."

"I'm a man of the people because I associate with everybody, whether rich or poor, high class or low class," he chuckled, revealing that when he's done with competing in a sport that has brought him fame and fortune, he will consider returning to the dee-jaying he used to do in high school.

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