Nairobi — With a hairline stress fracture on his heel, Elijah Manangoi missed the trip to Qatar to defend his 1500m world title, a crown that was aptly picked up by training partner Timothy Cheruiyot at the Khalifa International Stadium in Doha.
And now, partly thanks to the break occasioned by the COVID-19 pandemic, Manangoi, nicknamed 'The Lion', has had time to fully recover without missing any major competition and is raring to go in search of the elusive Olympic title.
"The Olympic medal is the only one I don't have," Manangoi says with his eyes shining in confident determination.
"I feel like this pandemic has given me a chance to recover well. I am now injury free and I have returned to training fully, like I have never been injured before. I was rushing to be back in time for the Doha Diamond League but at least now, the break has given me time to recover very well," stated the Commonwealth Games champion.
"I think I have returned hungrier and I need to continue fighting. I am very serious in my training and the competitions I will take," he added.
Manangoi had hoped to recover well to travel to Doha, but a week to the Championship, pulled out of the race where Cheruiyot went on to clinch the title after a successful season in the Diamond League.
"Last year was too tough for me especially noting I didn't go to defend my title in Doha. But I was very happy when my brother Cheruiyot went and came back with the gold medal," further added Manangoi.
He is already into his second week of training and on Tuesday hit the track for the first time, training with Cheruiyot and two other teammates from the Rongai Athletics Camp who will be part of the Maurie Plant Memorial Race on June 11.
This will be his first competition of the season, but his campaign will begin proper on August 4 at the Monaco Diamond League.
But even as he prepares for the make-up season, Manangoi has reiterated his focus is on Tokyo 2021 and an assault at the Olympic Gold, having come so close but failed due to injury in Doha 2016.
"This is my first journey towards the Olympics which is my big focus. The Diamond League is not so crucial in terms of winning, but I want to participate to get confidence to build up towards Tokyo," he stated.
Manangoi has spent a huge chunk of his recovery time especially during the COVID-19 pandemic with family back at his Narok home, while also fanning his farming hobby, tending to his wheat farms.
"I have continued to train even while I am at home, taking morning runs and doing some physio in the house as well. Going back to the track feels great and we have literally hit the ground running," he further stated.