Kenyan 1500m runner Asbel Kiprop (Getty Images)
Kenyan 1500m runner Asbel Kiprop (Getty Images)
  • COUNTRY Kenya Kenya
  • DATE OF BIRTH 30 JUN 1989

Focus on Athletes biographies are produced by the IAAF Communications Dept, and not by the IAAF Statistics and Documentation Division. If you have any enquiries concerning the information, please use the Contact IAAF page, selecting ‘Focus on Athletes Biographies’ in the drop down menu of contact area options.

Updated 4 September 2014

 

Asbel KIPROP Kipruto, Kenya (800m/1,500m/3,000m/Cross Country)

Born: 30 June 1989, Kaptinga (20km from Eldoret), Uasin Gishu District, Rift Valley Province

1.88m (6’ 2”) / 62kgs 

Lives in Eldoret

Manager: Federico Rosa

 

The name Kiprop means one born in the rainy season.

His father, David Kebenei, finished 4th for Kenya at 1,500m at the 1987 All Africa Games in Nairobi

Two years before he was born, Asbel Kiprop’s father – David Kebenei - finished 4th for Kenya at 1,500m at the 1987 All Africa Games in Nairobi. It did not take Asbel long to do even better – at the age of 18, the youngster whose hero and role model is Hicham El Guerrouj won the 1,500m at the 2007 All Africa Games in Algiers.

Since that win in Algeria, he has cemented his place as one of the best middle distance athletes of his generation as a growing maturity has seen him claim an Olympic gold, two World crowns and an African Athletics Championships title.

It all began with the Beijing Olympics when he was awarded victory after Bahraini athlete Rashid Ramzi failed a dope test with the eloquent and intelligent but at times erratic athlete reacted to the development in true character, saying “I am happy because I have gotten what is mine. It was unfair to compete with a person who was using drugs but at least there is some sense of justice.”

“I am disappointed that he denied Kenya a chance to have its national anthem played at the stadium. It could have been more special if I had won it in the stadium rather than to be awarded later,” he added.

The second born in a family of three, he started running while at Kaptinga Primary School, winning zonal competitions. But his father advised him to halt running until his body had developed.

Kiprop resumed while at Kaptinga Secondary School in 2003 and dropped out of school to concentrate on athletics. He teamed up with coach Jimmy Beauttah, who has trained former greats such as Moses Kiptanui and Daniel Komen, and, in June 2006, he took part in trials to select the Kenyan team for the World Junior Championships, in Beijing.

Although he could only manage fourth position, missing out on a place in the team, Kiprop was introduced to Martin Keino, the son of the legendary Kipchoge Keino. The younger Keino, also a former athlete, saw the raw talent and, in October 2006, Kiprop joined the Kip Keino High Performance Training Centre in Eldoret.

 

Not a fan of cross country, Kiprop had to be cajoled and convinced by Beauttah to take part in the cross country season prior to the 2007 World Championships in his home country and he was given a wildcard entry for the event despite finishing 11th at the junior men 8km Trials.

Kiprop could not have done more to repay the selectors, leading a Kenyan 1-2-3-4 finish – a perfect 10 - in the Junior Men’s race on March 24. Running in his first international race, he went into the final kilometre behind Leonard Komon and Vincent Kiprop but shifted through the gears to win by a comfortable margin.

Afterwards, not even the pain from blistered feet could dampen his joy, “To represent my country at an international event in Kenya 20 years after my father did makes me feel like I am continuing his legacy,” he said.

 

“I didn’t want to run in cross country but my coach convinced me to run as part of my build-up to the season. I am not sure how I won the race because for me it was a build up and I consider cross country like training for track.”

Shifting focus to the track, Kiprop had a busy campaign at home and overseas before earning selection for the All Africa Games in Algiers where his immense potential in 1500m was unearthed.

In the final, he hung on in the back of the pack until the final straight, where he unleashed his devastating kick to edge out the pre-race favourites from the home nation, Tarek Boukensa and Antar Zerguelaine, to win gold in 3:38:97.

Invited to take part in the Trials, for the Osaka World Championships on 28 July, again Kiprop stuck to his plan. He was sixth position until the last 100 metres, where he moved outside and sped to victory (3:35.50) ahead of his more illustrious opponents, Alex Kipchirchir and Daniel Komen.

 

In Osaka, Kiprop successfully negotiated his heat and semi before his inexperience on the grand stage told as he finished just outside the medals in 3:35.24.

Kiprop skipped the 2008 cross country season opting instead to concentrate on the track with the Olympic Games in mind. He opted for 800m instead of his preferred 1,500m at the Trials for the African Athletics Championships as he sought to build up on his speed. He won his heat but finished second behind then World Junior and Africa Youth Champion David Rudisha in an impressive 1:44.99.

At the African Championships Kiprop won bronze in 800m in 1:46.02 before going back to the High Performance Training Centre to train for the Beijing Trials where his then preferred motoring from deep over the homestretch landed him at second (3:36.53) and into Beijing in one of the most fiercely contested finals that had a deep field.

 

In China, he effortlessly cruised through to the final where he lined up against Ramzi. The Bahraini’s turn of speed in the last 200 metres was just too much for Kiprop and he had to settle for silver in 3:33.11, a result which was later changed to gold after Ramzi failed a doping test.

Kiprop rounded off a successful year with a second place finish at the World Athletics Final in Stuttgart in a time of 3:37.93.


At the onset of 2009, Kiprop was in the local news for all the wrong reasons, first, being accused of gamesmanship when he designated himself as a pacemaker for pal Matthew Kisorio at the Trials for the Amman World Cross, aiding him to make the team with a second finish in February, an act for which he showed no remorse despite harbouring no interest at all in the competition.

He then had fallout at the IOC High Performance Training Centre in Eldoret, where he had been based, which led to him being expelled. It was said that he received a female visitor late at night which did not go down well with the administrators. Kiprop however, refuted the allegations and though National Olympic Committee of Kenya chairman Kipchoge Keino extended him an olive branch that he could be readmitted if he apologised, he opted instead to pitch tent with Federico Rosa.

Soon, he shifted focus to what he does best, running and chief among his aim was to have a crack at dipping under the 1:44 barrier in 800m at the Doha Super Grand Prix in Qatar. “I will be running in the 800 metres race as I am chasing a 1:43 and hopefully I will attain that time,” he stated before the race. He duly attained his objective clocking 1:43.17 –to finish second behind Abubaker Kaki of Sudan.

That performance ignited debate on whether he was planning to double in 800m and 1,500m at the Berlin Worlds with qualification a foregone conclusion barring disaster. “If given the chance, I will double but it depends on whether Athletics Kenya will enter me in both races and the timetable in Berlin,” Kiprop maintained.

In the run-up to the Trials between June and July, Kiprop won races in Hengelo, Eugene (One Mile) and Rome where he was targeting to run under 3:30 but he blew away the competition in 3:31.20 that left him deflated.

 

“I wanted to run under 3:30 in Rome but I did not. I like setting and achieving my goals but I fell just short,” he said.

He returned to prepare for the Kenyan Trials and roared on by an ecstatic crowd of about 10,000 the show pony duly responded by giving his compatriots a then new soil record of 3:32.82 in the 1,500m that stood until the same event two years later when Silas Kiplagat won it over Kiprop in 3:31.39.

Expectant fans that were willing him on to line up for the 800m race were disappointed when the starting gun went off without their star. “I was told not to compete by the team physio after I felt my muscles tighten as I was warming down. As to whether I will compete in both races in Berlin, we’ll wait and see,” Kiprop said.

 

With selectors only picking three 800m runners for Berlin with four slots available Kiprop was handed the wild card to attempt the 800 and 1500 metre double.

Heavily tipped to win the 1500m World title, Kiprop easily qualified for the semis after winning his heat and repeated the same trick to qualify for the final. But despite the ease with which he qualified, critics including the legendary Kipchoge Keino cautioned him against his tactics of running from behind saying he needed to stay near the leaders to have a tilt at winning.

The cocky athlete failed to heed the warnings and on the 19 August final, he again stayed at the back as the athletes went through the first three laps. His attempts to get back into the race in the final 150 metres were not enough as he could only manage fourth place in 3:36.47 as Youssef Saad Kamel registered a surprise win.

Afterwards, there were reports that he had refused to follow team tactics which had been for Augustine Choge and him to take turns in setting the pace.

The following day he lined up in the opening heats of the 800 metres easily qualifying for the semis. Drawn in a tough semi that included Kamel, Yuriy Borzakovskiy, Mbulaeni Mulaudzi and Alfred Kirwa Yego, Kiprop set off like a bullet in the first lap but then came unstuck as the gladiators behind him roared past and he ended up in seventh place in 1:52.05.

The lanky athlete dabbled in indoor athletics in early 2010 running personal bests in the One Mile race in New York on 29 January (3:58.03i) at the GE Galan meet in Stockholm on 10 February at 800 metres (1:47.25).

 

Moving to the outdoor season, Olympic champion had a fruitful campaign overseas and collected another national title in 3:33.69 to book his slot for the African Athletics Championships Kenya was hosting.

Wins at Prefontaine Classic (One Mile) and Gateshead followed as he primed for the continental showpiece. Ever the show man, Kiprop’s run was highly anticipated in Nairobi especially with the emergence of Kiplagat who had run the world leading 3:29:27 in Monaco on the eve of the championship.

The tall athlete did not disappoint, coming home in first place in 3:36.19, but not before he had paused to wag his finger, his then trademark celebration he started crowning 50 metres to the finish line. “Those days are behind me now,” he stressed before leaving for Moscow.

With the African crown firmly on his head, Kiprop set for Brussels on 27 August where a win would bring him the Diamond League trophy. He certainly meant business, staying just behind the pacemakers before going flat out to win in a time of 3:32.18 and with it a USD 40,000 cheque as well as a Diamond trophy for his efforts.

 

After prevailing over Kiplagat, his new-found arch nemesis in Rieti, the unpredictable nature of the Olympic champion came to the fore at the Continental Cup in Split where he inexplicably faded to sixth with 3:38.81.

At the start of 2011, Kiprop made the rather peculiar statement that, “If I don’t dip under 3:30 this season, I will move up to 5000m,” as once again, he declined the offer to compete in Cross Country saying, “I need more speed to achieve my aim and that cannot be done in cross.”

That is what informed Kiprop to feature in more 800m races to get some thrust in his lanky legs.

In a display of good early season form, he opened his Diamond League 800m/1500m double assault in Doha with victory (1:44.74/800m/6 May), finishing second in Shanghai (3:31.76/1500m/15 May) and fourth in Rome (1:46.02/800m/26 May).

 

At the start of June, Kiprop was beaten to third by his local rivals, Keitany and Kiplagat, at the One Mile race at the DL Prefontaine Classic, in Oregon, but he did run his SB of 3:49.55 before he turned the tables on his rivals five days later when he took top honours over the same distance in 3:50.86 when the elite circuit made its stop at the Bislett Games in Oslo.

 

Although he came in as the headline act when the Trials for the Daegu Worlds commenced, having not lost at the stadium in three years, the Olympic champion had his plate full with no less than six contenders for the three tickets featuring in the world Top 10 (led then by Nixon Chepseba).

 

No doubt, this was THE race of the meet and so it proved. “Kenya has never won a gold medal at the World Championships but this year, we have the best chance since we have so many runners in good form. My wish is just to be in the team,” Kiprop stated before the showdown.

After coasting through the heats and semis, even he was not prepared for what transpired at the final where Kiplagat showed a devastating turn of pace to bring down his soil record  to 3:31.39 and pride when he turned back in the last 50m to taunt his lankier rival who came home in 3:32.26 for second.

“I’m grateful to have made the team. Silas was in a different level today but the hard part of qualifying is done with, now it’s time to train for the World Championships and work on my ambitions of realising my dream of winning gold,” the Beijing and African champion observed.

 

On his return to the DL racing in Monaco (22 July), Kiprop opted for the 800m, where he returned a lifetime best of 1:43.15 for second as he bravely squared off with World record holder Rudisha, who won in 1:42.61.

He was once again second to the 1500m Commonwealth titleholder Kiplagat at his next DL and last pre-Daegu race in Stockholm (29 July) with the timer stopping at 3:34.42.

When quizzed on what the imperious shape of Kiplagat portended for him in Korea, Kiprop said, “He is my teammate and we shall partner to ensure the elusive gold medal comes back home.”

 

In Daegu, Kiprop breezed through to the final where he would be up against Kiplagat. This time though he meant business. Never hanging around the back of the pack, he stayed right behind the leaders and when Kiplagat made a move with 300 metres to go, he responded by stretching his long legs to gold in a time of 3:35.69 ahead of his nemesis who clinched silver.

Kiprop started the Olympic year 2012 with several cross country races and when the DL season opened in Doha in May, he dipped under the 3:30 mark for the first time ever, finishing behind Kiplagat in 3:29.78. The race was not without controversy as the winner seemed to push Kiprop as they duelled in the final straight, which caused him to stumble.

He held on to his Prefontaine title and added the Oslo Mile to his collection before returning home for where understandably, the 1500 metres race at the Kenyan Olympic Trials on 23 June was the most eagerly awaited event, with many predicting a closely fought encounter. They were not disappointed. While Kiplagat ran away with victory and 2011 Diamond League winner Chepseba came in second, the Olympic champion had an almighty scare as he just about squeezed through after finishing third (3:38.3).

 

But in Monaco in July, Kiprop showed why he will be the man to beat in London with a blistering performance. Running with Chepseba, he took the lead at the bell and then wound up the pace down the back straight before tearing away to record the fifth fastest time of all time (3:28.88).

"I wanted to come to Monaco and run 3:28 here, and I’m very happy that I was able to," said Kiprop, adding, "It was a very good race and I felt very, very good. Yes, it gives me confidence," he told the IAAF website after the race.

“It’s hard to pick who between the three of us will win the gold medal. But I am sure that the Olympic record of 3:32.07 set by Noah Ngeny 12 years ago will be broken,” he said before packing his bags to London where Kenya’s much talked about trio bombed during the final in spectacular fashion.

A hamstring strain suffered a day to departure for the British capital saw him finish last in the final.

After recovering from the strain that impeded his mission that also saw him fail to land a second DL title after finishing fifth at the Brussels final (7 September), Kiprop bounced back to competition in fine fettle in 2013, underscored by his Monaco blast that served notice of his intentions to retain his World title in Moscow in a campaign he has raced rather sparingly.

At the selection event (13 July), Kiplagat once again took the honours, 3:33.7 against 3:33.8 with the erstwhile rivals exhibiting camaraderie after being united by the pain of London as Chepseba and a fourth runner, Bethwell Birgen, were selected to complete the Moscow line-up.

 

Shortly after selection, Kiprop arrived at his favourite Herculis Monaco DL meet and served notice of his intent by uncorking his huge 3:27.72 lifetime best, the then fourth fastest of all time and World Leading mark that had the entire world buzzing.

And so when his moment came in the Luzniki Stadium, Kiprop found redemption on the blue Mondo track as the year's top athletics meeting came to a close on the final day. The fastest man currently running the 1500m defended his World title by pushing aside the disappointment of London and showing once again in a global championship he is the world's best man over the distance.

The tall, long-striding Kiprop surged to the front with about 80 metres to go and cruised home in 3:36.28 to beat the USA’s Matthew Centrowitz.

"I feel redemption from what happened in London," said the 24-year-old Kiprop who, troubled by hamstring problems, trailed home a heart-breaking 12th at the Olympic final last summer.

"We expected a faster race, but I was ready for any kind of race," he said. "I have done a 3:27 this season and I was ready, and I even did a 3:43 during the semis so I was ready for any kind of race."

 

A couple of sixth finishes at the Stockholm meet and the Zürich final saw the DL crown elude his grasp in August, before he signed off a rewarding year with 4:08 personal best on the road in Birmingham over the Mile.

In true Kiprop fashion, the two-time World champion has enjoyed contrasting fortunes in 2014 as he attempted to take the next scalp, the World Record.

“We do not have major championships this year and my aim is to run under my personal best and do a 3:26. I will not consider Commonwealth Games since I want to give young runners a chance to go to Scotland and feel how it is to win a medal for Kenya,” he started in March during the build-up to the inaugural World Relays in Bahamas.

He made the team alongside his arch rival Kiplagat as Collins Cheboi and James Magut completed the Kenyan quartet that went on to post a commanding new World Record in the 4X1500m after stopping the clock at 14:22.22.

The quartet lowered the previous standard by 14 seconds, with the World champion taking the baton from Magut in a stuttering change-over for the last leg, but once he got going, he took the bell at 13:26.00 and closed in 56.22 to set the World Record. Unchallenged, it wasn't even the quickest lap of the record as Kiplagat's first full lap of 53.50 took that honour.

 

He launched his DL campaign like a house on fire shortly after, establishing a World Leading 3:29.18 in May, but failed to hit the high notes at the following events in Eugene (sixth) and Rome (third) before, in keeping to his earlier promise, he stunned the home crowd when he dropped out of the National Championships final just after the bell and was consequently ruled out of the Commonwealth Games, but in an agreement with Athletics Kenya, he was given a wildcard to the African Championships squad.

Attention turned to his World Record bid at the Herculis Meeting in Monaco, but on a magical July night, his mission bombed in spectacular fashion, all the glory stolen on the day by the old enemy Kiplagat; who soared to his 3:27.64 lifetime best and world lead, overtaking his nemesis on the all time list to No. 4.

For Kiprop, who finished in a season’s best of 3:28.45, it was a huge anti-climax after he had prepared for a supposed attempt on El Guerrouj’s 16-year-old World Record of 3:26.00 by setting the fastest 800m time of the year, 1:43.34, at the DL meeting in Paris earlier in the month.         

“At 1200m I knew the race was too slow,” the two-time World champion said. “We went through in 2:47 and I had asked for 2:45. In the home straight, I could see the others behind me on the big screen and I knew they would get back on me. I could see Silas coming closer and closer. It was a tough race.”

Djibouti’s Ayanleh Souleiman (3:42.49) then produced another shocking victory over Kiprop to deny him a second African title after his home triumph in 2010 as he came home in 3:42.58 for silver, but the performance was enough to earn his berth at the Continental Cup line-up.

 

 

Personal Bests

800m: 1:43.15 (2011)

1,500m: 3:27.72 (2013)

3000m: 7:42.32 (2007)

One Mile: 3:48.50 (2009)

 

Yearly Progression

800m: 2008: 1:44.71, 2009:1:43.17; 2010:1:43.45; 2011:1:43.15; 2012:1:45.91; 2013- 1:45.54; 2014-1:43.34

1,500m: 2007:3:35:24, 2008: 3:31.64; 2009: 3:31.20; 2010: 3:31.78; 2011:3:30.46; 2012:3:28.88; 2013-3:27.72; 2014-3:28.45

One Mile: 2009-3:48.50; 2010-3:49.56; 2011-3:49.55; 2012- 3:49.22; 2013- 3:49.53; 2014-3:50.26   

3000m: 2007 - 7:42.32, 2008 - 8:21.24; 2009: -/; 2010: 7:53.22; 2011: -/; 2012: -/;

 

Career Highlights

2007

1st 

World Cross Country Championships (Mombasa)

(Junior race)

2007

1st 

All Africa Games (Algiers)

(1,500m)

2007

4th

World Championships (Osaka)

(1,500m)

2008

3rd 

African Athletics Championships (Addis Ababa)  

(800m)

2008

1st  

Olympic Games (Beijing)

(1,500m)

2008

2nd   

World Athletics Final (Stuttgart)

(1,500m)

2009       

4th

World Championships (Berlin)

(1500m)

2009    

7th SF

World Championships (Berlin)

  (800m)

2010           

1st

African Athletics Championships Nairobi)

(1500m)

2010   

6th

Continental Cup (Split)

(1500m)

2011          

1st 

World Athletics Championships (Daegu)

(1500m)

2012   

12th

Olympic Games (London)

(1500m)

2013  

1st

World Championships (Moscow)

(1500m)

2014

1st

World Relay Championships (Bahamas)

(4x1500m)

2014

2nd

African Championships (Morocco)

(1500m)


Prepared by James Wokabi and Mutwiri Mutuota for the IAAF ‘Focus on Athletes’ project. ©  IAAF  2007-2014.

 

Personal Best - Outdoor
Performance Wind Place Date
800 Metres 1:43.15 Monaco (Stade Louis II) 22 JUL 2011
1500 Metres 3:27.72 Monaco (Stade Louis II) 19 JUL 2013
One Mile 3:48.50 Eugene, OR 07 JUN 2009
3000 Metres 7:42.32 Torino 08 JUN 2007
Personal Best - Indoor
Performance Wind Place Date
800 Metres 1:47.25 Stockholm 10 FEB 2010
1500 Metres 3:42.4 New York (MSG), NY 29 JAN 2010
One Mile 3:58.03 New York (MSG), NY 29 JAN 2010
Progression - Outdoor showShow All Graphs
800 Metres Show Graphshow
Performance Place Date
2014 1:43.34 Paris Saint-Denis 05 JUL
2013 1:45.54 Roma (Stadio Olimpico) 06 JUN
2012 1:45.91 Sydney (SOPAC) 18 FEB
2011 1:43.15 Monaco (Stade Louis II) 22 JUL
2010 1:43.45 Doha 14 MAY
2009 1:43.17 Doha 08 MAY
2008 1:44.71 Lausanne 02 SEP
1500 Metres Show Graphshow
Performance Place Date
2014 3:28.45 Monaco (Stade Louis II) 18 JUL
2013 3:27.72 Monaco (Stade Louis II) 19 JUL
2012 3:28.88 Monaco (Stade Louis II) 20 JUL
2011 3:30.46 Rieti 10 SEP
2010 3:31.78 Rieti 29 AUG
2009 3:31.20 Roma (Stadio Olimpico) 10 JUL
2008 3:31.64 Roma (Stadio Olimpico) 11 JUL
2007 3:35.24 Osaka (Nagai Stadium) 29 AUG
One Mile Show Graphshow
Performance Place Date
2014 3:50.26 Eugene, OR 31 MAY
2013 3:49.53 Eugene, OR 01 JUN
2012 3:49.22 Oslo (Bislett) 07 JUN
2011 3:49.55 Eugene, OR 04 JUN
2010 3:49.56 Oslo (Bislett) 04 JUN
2009 3:48.50 Eugene, OR 07 JUN
3000 Metres Show Graphshow
Performance Place Date
2010 7:53.22 Milano 09 SEP
2008 8:21.24 Réduit 06 APR
2007 7:42.32 Torino 08 JUN
Progression - Indoor showShow All Graphs
800 Metres Show Graphshow
Performance Place Date
2010 1:47.25 Stockholm 10 FEB
1500 Metres Show Graphshow
Performance Place Date
2010 3:42.4 New York (MSG), NY 29 JAN
One Mile Show Graphshow
Performance Place Date
2010 3:58.03 New York (MSG), NY 29 JAN
Honours - 800 Metres
Rank Mark Wind Place Date
12th IAAF World Championships in Athletics 7sf2 1:52.05 Berlin (Olympiastadion) 21 AUG 2009
Honours - 1500 Metres
Rank Mark Wind Place Date
2nd IAAF Continental Cup 2014 2 3:49.10 Marrakech (Le Grande Stade) 13 SEP 2014
14th IAAF World Championships 1 3:36.28 Moskva (Luzhniki) 18 AUG 2013
The XXX Olympic Games 12 3:43.83 London (OP) 07 AUG 2012
13th IAAF World Championships in Athletics 1 3:35.69 Daegu 03 SEP 2011
1st IAAF/VTB Bank Continental Cup 2010 6 3:38.81 Split (Poljud Stadium) 04 SEP 2010
12th IAAF World Championships in Athletics 4 3:36.47 Berlin (Olympiastadion) 19 AUG 2009
6th IAAF/VTB Bank World Athletics Final 2 3:37.93 Stuttgart 14 SEP 2008
The XXIX Olympic Games 1 3:33.11 Beijing (National Stadium) 19 AUG 2008
11th IAAF World Championships in Athletics 4 3:35.24 Osaka (Nagai Stadium) 29 AUG 2007
Honours - Junior Race
Rank Mark Wind Place Date
35th IAAF World Cross Country Championships 1 24:07 Mombasa 24 MAR 2007

Focus on Athletes biographies are produced by the IAAF Communications Dept, and not by the IAAF Statistics and Documentation Division. If you have any enquiries concerning the information, please use the Contact IAAF page, selecting ‘Focus on Athletes Biographies’ in the drop down menu of contact area options.

Updated 4 September 2014

 

Asbel KIPROP Kipruto, Kenya (800m/1,500m/3,000m/Cross Country)

Born: 30 June 1989, Kaptinga (20km from Eldoret), Uasin Gishu District, Rift Valley Province

1.88m (6’ 2”) / 62kgs 

Lives in Eldoret

Manager: Federico Rosa

 

The name Kiprop means one born in the rainy season.

His father, David Kebenei, finished 4th for Kenya at 1,500m at the 1987 All Africa Games in Nairobi

Two years before he was born, Asbel Kiprop’s father – David Kebenei - finished 4th for Kenya at 1,500m at the 1987 All Africa Games in Nairobi. It did not take Asbel long to do even better – at the age of 18, the youngster whose hero and role model is Hicham El Guerrouj won the 1,500m at the 2007 All Africa Games in Algiers.

Since that win in Algeria, he has cemented his place as one of the best middle distance athletes of his generation as a growing maturity has seen him claim an Olympic gold, two World crowns and an African Athletics Championships title.

It all began with the Beijing Olympics when he was awarded victory after Bahraini athlete Rashid Ramzi failed a dope test with the eloquent and intelligent but at times erratic athlete reacted to the development in true character, saying “I am happy because I have gotten what is mine. It was unfair to compete with a person who was using drugs but at least there is some sense of justice.”

“I am disappointed that he denied Kenya a chance to have its national anthem played at the stadium. It could have been more special if I had won it in the stadium rather than to be awarded later,” he added.

The second born in a family of three, he started running while at Kaptinga Primary School, winning zonal competitions. But his father advised him to halt running until his body had developed.

Kiprop resumed while at Kaptinga Secondary School in 2003 and dropped out of school to concentrate on athletics. He teamed up with coach Jimmy Beauttah, who has trained former greats such as Moses Kiptanui and Daniel Komen, and, in June 2006, he took part in trials to select the Kenyan team for the World Junior Championships, in Beijing.

Although he could only manage fourth position, missing out on a place in the team, Kiprop was introduced to Martin Keino, the son of the legendary Kipchoge Keino. The younger Keino, also a former athlete, saw the raw talent and, in October 2006, Kiprop joined the Kip Keino High Performance Training Centre in Eldoret.

 

Not a fan of cross country, Kiprop had to be cajoled and convinced by Beauttah to take part in the cross country season prior to the 2007 World Championships in his home country and he was given a wildcard entry for the event despite finishing 11th at the junior men 8km Trials.

Kiprop could not have done more to repay the selectors, leading a Kenyan 1-2-3-4 finish – a perfect 10 - in the Junior Men’s race on March 24. Running in his first international race, he went into the final kilometre behind Leonard Komon and Vincent Kiprop but shifted through the gears to win by a comfortable margin.

Afterwards, not even the pain from blistered feet could dampen his joy, “To represent my country at an international event in Kenya 20 years after my father did makes me feel like I am continuing his legacy,” he said.

 

“I didn’t want to run in cross country but my coach convinced me to run as part of my build-up to the season. I am not sure how I won the race because for me it was a build up and I consider cross country like training for track.”

Shifting focus to the track, Kiprop had a busy campaign at home and overseas before earning selection for the All Africa Games in Algiers where his immense potential in 1500m was unearthed.

In the final, he hung on in the back of the pack until the final straight, where he unleashed his devastating kick to edge out the pre-race favourites from the home nation, Tarek Boukensa and Antar Zerguelaine, to win gold in 3:38:97.

Invited to take part in the Trials, for the Osaka World Championships on 28 July, again Kiprop stuck to his plan. He was sixth position until the last 100 metres, where he moved outside and sped to victory (3:35.50) ahead of his more illustrious opponents, Alex Kipchirchir and Daniel Komen.

 

In Osaka, Kiprop successfully negotiated his heat and semi before his inexperience on the grand stage told as he finished just outside the medals in 3:35.24.

Kiprop skipped the 2008 cross country season opting instead to concentrate on the track with the Olympic Games in mind. He opted for 800m instead of his preferred 1,500m at the Trials for the African Athletics Championships as he sought to build up on his speed. He won his heat but finished second behind then World Junior and Africa Youth Champion David Rudisha in an impressive 1:44.99.

At the African Championships Kiprop won bronze in 800m in 1:46.02 before going back to the High Performance Training Centre to train for the Beijing Trials where his then preferred motoring from deep over the homestretch landed him at second (3:36.53) and into Beijing in one of the most fiercely contested finals that had a deep field.

 

In China, he effortlessly cruised through to the final where he lined up against Ramzi. The Bahraini’s turn of speed in the last 200 metres was just too much for Kiprop and he had to settle for silver in 3:33.11, a result which was later changed to gold after Ramzi failed a doping test.

Kiprop rounded off a successful year with a second place finish at the World Athletics Final in Stuttgart in a time of 3:37.93.


At the onset of 2009, Kiprop was in the local news for all the wrong reasons, first, being accused of gamesmanship when he designated himself as a pacemaker for pal Matthew Kisorio at the Trials for the Amman World Cross, aiding him to make the team with a second finish in February, an act for which he showed no remorse despite harbouring no interest at all in the competition.

He then had fallout at the IOC High Performance Training Centre in Eldoret, where he had been based, which led to him being expelled. It was said that he received a female visitor late at night which did not go down well with the administrators. Kiprop however, refuted the allegations and though National Olympic Committee of Kenya chairman Kipchoge Keino extended him an olive branch that he could be readmitted if he apologised, he opted instead to pitch tent with Federico Rosa.

Soon, he shifted focus to what he does best, running and chief among his aim was to have a crack at dipping under the 1:44 barrier in 800m at the Doha Super Grand Prix in Qatar. “I will be running in the 800 metres race as I am chasing a 1:43 and hopefully I will attain that time,” he stated before the race. He duly attained his objective clocking 1:43.17 –to finish second behind Abubaker Kaki of Sudan.

That performance ignited debate on whether he was planning to double in 800m and 1,500m at the Berlin Worlds with qualification a foregone conclusion barring disaster. “If given the chance, I will double but it depends on whether Athletics Kenya will enter me in both races and the timetable in Berlin,” Kiprop maintained.

In the run-up to the Trials between June and July, Kiprop won races in Hengelo, Eugene (One Mile) and Rome where he was targeting to run under 3:30 but he blew away the competition in 3:31.20 that left him deflated.

 

“I wanted to run under 3:30 in Rome but I did not. I like setting and achieving my goals but I fell just short,” he said.

He returned to prepare for the Kenyan Trials and roared on by an ecstatic crowd of about 10,000 the show pony duly responded by giving his compatriots a then new soil record of 3:32.82 in the 1,500m that stood until the same event two years later when Silas Kiplagat won it over Kiprop in 3:31.39.

Expectant fans that were willing him on to line up for the 800m race were disappointed when the starting gun went off without their star. “I was told not to compete by the team physio after I felt my muscles tighten as I was warming down. As to whether I will compete in both races in Berlin, we’ll wait and see,” Kiprop said.

 

With selectors only picking three 800m runners for Berlin with four slots available Kiprop was handed the wild card to attempt the 800 and 1500 metre double.

Heavily tipped to win the 1500m World title, Kiprop easily qualified for the semis after winning his heat and repeated the same trick to qualify for the final. But despite the ease with which he qualified, critics including the legendary Kipchoge Keino cautioned him against his tactics of running from behind saying he needed to stay near the leaders to have a tilt at winning.

The cocky athlete failed to heed the warnings and on the 19 August final, he again stayed at the back as the athletes went through the first three laps. His attempts to get back into the race in the final 150 metres were not enough as he could only manage fourth place in 3:36.47 as Youssef Saad Kamel registered a surprise win.

Afterwards, there were reports that he had refused to follow team tactics which had been for Augustine Choge and him to take turns in setting the pace.

The following day he lined up in the opening heats of the 800 metres easily qualifying for the semis. Drawn in a tough semi that included Kamel, Yuriy Borzakovskiy, Mbulaeni Mulaudzi and Alfred Kirwa Yego, Kiprop set off like a bullet in the first lap but then came unstuck as the gladiators behind him roared past and he ended up in seventh place in 1:52.05.

The lanky athlete dabbled in indoor athletics in early 2010 running personal bests in the One Mile race in New York on 29 January (3:58.03i) at the GE Galan meet in Stockholm on 10 February at 800 metres (1:47.25).

 

Moving to the outdoor season, Olympic champion had a fruitful campaign overseas and collected another national title in 3:33.69 to book his slot for the African Athletics Championships Kenya was hosting.

Wins at Prefontaine Classic (One Mile) and Gateshead followed as he primed for the continental showpiece. Ever the show man, Kiprop’s run was highly anticipated in Nairobi especially with the emergence of Kiplagat who had run the world leading 3:29:27 in Monaco on the eve of the championship.

The tall athlete did not disappoint, coming home in first place in 3:36.19, but not before he had paused to wag his finger, his then trademark celebration he started crowning 50 metres to the finish line. “Those days are behind me now,” he stressed before leaving for Moscow.

With the African crown firmly on his head, Kiprop set for Brussels on 27 August where a win would bring him the Diamond League trophy. He certainly meant business, staying just behind the pacemakers before going flat out to win in a time of 3:32.18 and with it a USD 40,000 cheque as well as a Diamond trophy for his efforts.

 

After prevailing over Kiplagat, his new-found arch nemesis in Rieti, the unpredictable nature of the Olympic champion came to the fore at the Continental Cup in Split where he inexplicably faded to sixth with 3:38.81.

At the start of 2011, Kiprop made the rather peculiar statement that, “If I don’t dip under 3:30 this season, I will move up to 5000m,” as once again, he declined the offer to compete in Cross Country saying, “I need more speed to achieve my aim and that cannot be done in cross.”

That is what informed Kiprop to feature in more 800m races to get some thrust in his lanky legs.

In a display of good early season form, he opened his Diamond League 800m/1500m double assault in Doha with victory (1:44.74/800m/6 May), finishing second in Shanghai (3:31.76/1500m/15 May) and fourth in Rome (1:46.02/800m/26 May).

 

At the start of June, Kiprop was beaten to third by his local rivals, Keitany and Kiplagat, at the One Mile race at the DL Prefontaine Classic, in Oregon, but he did run his SB of 3:49.55 before he turned the tables on his rivals five days later when he took top honours over the same distance in 3:50.86 when the elite circuit made its stop at the Bislett Games in Oslo.

 

Although he came in as the headline act when the Trials for the Daegu Worlds commenced, having not lost at the stadium in three years, the Olympic champion had his plate full with no less than six contenders for the three tickets featuring in the world Top 10 (led then by Nixon Chepseba).

 

No doubt, this was THE race of the meet and so it proved. “Kenya has never won a gold medal at the World Championships but this year, we have the best chance since we have so many runners in good form. My wish is just to be in the team,” Kiprop stated before the showdown.

After coasting through the heats and semis, even he was not prepared for what transpired at the final where Kiplagat showed a devastating turn of pace to bring down his soil record  to 3:31.39 and pride when he turned back in the last 50m to taunt his lankier rival who came home in 3:32.26 for second.

“I’m grateful to have made the team. Silas was in a different level today but the hard part of qualifying is done with, now it’s time to train for the World Championships and work on my ambitions of realising my dream of winning gold,” the Beijing and African champion observed.

 

On his return to the DL racing in Monaco (22 July), Kiprop opted for the 800m, where he returned a lifetime best of 1:43.15 for second as he bravely squared off with World record holder Rudisha, who won in 1:42.61.

He was once again second to the 1500m Commonwealth titleholder Kiplagat at his next DL and last pre-Daegu race in Stockholm (29 July) with the timer stopping at 3:34.42.

When quizzed on what the imperious shape of Kiplagat portended for him in Korea, Kiprop said, “He is my teammate and we shall partner to ensure the elusive gold medal comes back home.”

 

In Daegu, Kiprop breezed through to the final where he would be up against Kiplagat. This time though he meant business. Never hanging around the back of the pack, he stayed right behind the leaders and when Kiplagat made a move with 300 metres to go, he responded by stretching his long legs to gold in a time of 3:35.69 ahead of his nemesis who clinched silver.

Kiprop started the Olympic year 2012 with several cross country races and when the DL season opened in Doha in May, he dipped under the 3:30 mark for the first time ever, finishing behind Kiplagat in 3:29.78. The race was not without controversy as the winner seemed to push Kiprop as they duelled in the final straight, which caused him to stumble.

He held on to his Prefontaine title and added the Oslo Mile to his collection before returning home for where understandably, the 1500 metres race at the Kenyan Olympic Trials on 23 June was the most eagerly awaited event, with many predicting a closely fought encounter. They were not disappointed. While Kiplagat ran away with victory and 2011 Diamond League winner Chepseba came in second, the Olympic champion had an almighty scare as he just about squeezed through after finishing third (3:38.3).

 

But in Monaco in July, Kiprop showed why he will be the man to beat in London with a blistering performance. Running with Chepseba, he took the lead at the bell and then wound up the pace down the back straight before tearing away to record the fifth fastest time of all time (3:28.88).

"I wanted to come to Monaco and run 3:28 here, and I’m very happy that I was able to," said Kiprop, adding, "It was a very good race and I felt very, very good. Yes, it gives me confidence," he told the IAAF website after the race.

“It’s hard to pick who between the three of us will win the gold medal. But I am sure that the Olympic record of 3:32.07 set by Noah Ngeny 12 years ago will be broken,” he said before packing his bags to London where Kenya’s much talked about trio bombed during the final in spectacular fashion.

A hamstring strain suffered a day to departure for the British capital saw him finish last in the final.

After recovering from the strain that impeded his mission that also saw him fail to land a second DL title after finishing fifth at the Brussels final (7 September), Kiprop bounced back to competition in fine fettle in 2013, underscored by his Monaco blast that served notice of his intentions to retain his World title in Moscow in a campaign he has raced rather sparingly.

At the selection event (13 July), Kiplagat once again took the honours, 3:33.7 against 3:33.8 with the erstwhile rivals exhibiting camaraderie after being united by the pain of London as Chepseba and a fourth runner, Bethwell Birgen, were selected to complete the Moscow line-up.

 

Shortly after selection, Kiprop arrived at his favourite Herculis Monaco DL meet and served notice of his intent by uncorking his huge 3:27.72 lifetime best, the then fourth fastest of all time and World Leading mark that had the entire world buzzing.

And so when his moment came in the Luzniki Stadium, Kiprop found redemption on the blue Mondo track as the year's top athletics meeting came to a close on the final day. The fastest man currently running the 1500m defended his World title by pushing aside the disappointment of London and showing once again in a global championship he is the world's best man over the distance.

The tall, long-striding Kiprop surged to the front with about 80 metres to go and cruised home in 3:36.28 to beat the USA’s Matthew Centrowitz.

"I feel redemption from what happened in London," said the 24-year-old Kiprop who, troubled by hamstring problems, trailed home a heart-breaking 12th at the Olympic final last summer.

"We expected a faster race, but I was ready for any kind of race," he said. "I have done a 3:27 this season and I was ready, and I even did a 3:43 during the semis so I was ready for any kind of race."

 

A couple of sixth finishes at the Stockholm meet and the Zürich final saw the DL crown elude his grasp in August, before he signed off a rewarding year with 4:08 personal best on the road in Birmingham over the Mile.

In true Kiprop fashion, the two-time World champion has enjoyed contrasting fortunes in 2014 as he attempted to take the next scalp, the World Record.

“We do not have major championships this year and my aim is to run under my personal best and do a 3:26. I will not consider Commonwealth Games since I want to give young runners a chance to go to Scotland and feel how it is to win a medal for Kenya,” he started in March during the build-up to the inaugural World Relays in Bahamas.

He made the team alongside his arch rival Kiplagat as Collins Cheboi and James Magut completed the Kenyan quartet that went on to post a commanding new World Record in the 4X1500m after stopping the clock at 14:22.22.

The quartet lowered the previous standard by 14 seconds, with the World champion taking the baton from Magut in a stuttering change-over for the last leg, but once he got going, he took the bell at 13:26.00 and closed in 56.22 to set the World Record. Unchallenged, it wasn't even the quickest lap of the record as Kiplagat's first full lap of 53.50 took that honour.

 

He launched his DL campaign like a house on fire shortly after, establishing a World Leading 3:29.18 in May, but failed to hit the high notes at the following events in Eugene (sixth) and Rome (third) before, in keeping to his earlier promise, he stunned the home crowd when he dropped out of the National Championships final just after the bell and was consequently ruled out of the Commonwealth Games, but in an agreement with Athletics Kenya, he was given a wildcard to the African Championships squad.

Attention turned to his World Record bid at the Herculis Meeting in Monaco, but on a magical July night, his mission bombed in spectacular fashion, all the glory stolen on the day by the old enemy Kiplagat; who soared to his 3:27.64 lifetime best and world lead, overtaking his nemesis on the all time list to No. 4.

For Kiprop, who finished in a season’s best of 3:28.45, it was a huge anti-climax after he had prepared for a supposed attempt on El Guerrouj’s 16-year-old World Record of 3:26.00 by setting the fastest 800m time of the year, 1:43.34, at the DL meeting in Paris earlier in the month.         

“At 1200m I knew the race was too slow,” the two-time World champion said. “We went through in 2:47 and I had asked for 2:45. In the home straight, I could see the others behind me on the big screen and I knew they would get back on me. I could see Silas coming closer and closer. It was a tough race.”

Djibouti’s Ayanleh Souleiman (3:42.49) then produced another shocking victory over Kiprop to deny him a second African title after his home triumph in 2010 as he came home in 3:42.58 for silver, but the performance was enough to earn his berth at the Continental Cup line-up.

 

 

Personal Bests

800m: 1:43.15 (2011)

1,500m: 3:27.72 (2013)

3000m: 7:42.32 (2007)

One Mile: 3:48.50 (2009)

 

Yearly Progression

800m: 2008: 1:44.71, 2009:1:43.17; 2010:1:43.45; 2011:1:43.15; 2012:1:45.91; 2013- 1:45.54; 2014-1:43.34

1,500m: 2007:3:35:24, 2008: 3:31.64; 2009: 3:31.20; 2010: 3:31.78; 2011:3:30.46; 2012:3:28.88; 2013-3:27.72; 2014-3:28.45

One Mile: 2009-3:48.50; 2010-3:49.56; 2011-3:49.55; 2012- 3:49.22; 2013- 3:49.53; 2014-3:50.26   

3000m: 2007 - 7:42.32, 2008 - 8:21.24; 2009: -/; 2010: 7:53.22; 2011: -/; 2012: -/;

 

Career Highlights

2007

1st 

World Cross Country Championships (Mombasa)

(Junior race)

2007

1st 

All Africa Games (Algiers)

(1,500m)

2007

4th

World Championships (Osaka)

(1,500m)

2008

3rd 

African Athletics Championships (Addis Ababa)  

(800m)

2008

1st  

Olympic Games (Beijing)

(1,500m)

2008

2nd   

World Athletics Final (Stuttgart)

(1,500m)

2009       

4th

World Championships (Berlin)

(1500m)

2009    

7th SF

World Championships (Berlin)

  (800m)

2010           

1st

African Athletics Championships Nairobi)

(1500m)

2010   

6th

Continental Cup (Split)

(1500m)

2011          

1st 

World Athletics Championships (Daegu)

(1500m)

2012   

12th

Olympic Games (London)

(1500m)

2013  

1st

World Championships (Moscow)

(1500m)

2014

1st

World Relay Championships (Bahamas)

(4x1500m)

2014

2nd

African Championships (Morocco)

(1500m)


Prepared by James Wokabi and Mutwiri Mutuota for the IAAF ‘Focus on Athletes’ project. ©  IAAF  2007-2014.