Coach says Kenya’s stranglehold in 3,000m steeplechase to be won by individual prowess
The 3,000m steeplechase race at the 17th IAAF World Championships will be settled on psychological grounds Kenya head coach Julius Kirwa has declared.
Kirwa says that Moroccan Sofiane El Bakalli, the fastest man heading to the September 28 to October 6 Championships in Doha, Qatar, will be the man to watch, only if his form at the Diamond League is anything to go by.
But just as former Kenyan Stephen Cherono - now Saif Saeed Shaheen of Qatar - won two gold medals at the 2003 and 2005 championships, Kirwa says anything is possible.
“In Doha we shall have ex-Kenyan Hillary Bor running for US, I think he has had a good season. So has Ethiopia’s Getnet Wale, but as I said, we are Kenya and we are not afraid of nobody.
“I want to remind everyone else that IAAF Diamond League and world championships are two different ball games. While one has pacemakers, the other is simply a tactical race. With pace setters you can run the best time. In Doha for example you can win the race with nine minutes,” Kirwa told People Sport after Thursday mid-day training session at the Kasarani Stadium.
“With 7:58.15, El Bakkalli is among the few athletes who have managed the dreaded sub eight time, but that is just it. In Doha, he will be on his own, and that is where I think we shall strike,” Kirwa added.
The fact that Kenya’s Benjamin Kigen defeated him on his own track during the just-concluded African Games is yet another reason Kirwa is optimistic.
“There is nothing worse than psychological war. We have defeated him at home, what makes him think it will not happen again, I am sure he is worried about that, more than we are,” he added.
Despite the fact that from the previous 16 World Championships Kenyan has won the event on 12 occasions does not mean the country should stop working on improvement, he opened up.
“We have not signed a contract that the steeplechase is our event (Kenya’s). That is why just like any other country we have to fight very hard for victory,” said he.
World and Olympics champion Conseslus Kipruto and Abraham Kibiwott are two of the athletes from the quartet that Kirwa took through the paces on Thursday noon.
“Leonard Bett and Kigen had a different timetable for today. But generally everyone is training well for the championships,” he said.
Kipruto with a best time of 8:00.12 and highly tipped to make the class of athletes who have run under-8 minutes is confident he will do well in Doha.
“I will go Doha knowing no athlete has beaten me at the major event.
I am confident of that the team we have shall deliver. Who has better times doesn’t matter to me for now, good health, and form is my motivation,” said Kipruto.
“If you watched my training today, you could tell the foot injury is behind me.
I am returning to the shape that has made me champion before. Everyone should be worried,” he added.
“I believe the four of us will make to the finals, and that is when the whole world will know the dangers of doubting us,” he concluded.