General News

Kipchoge tops the field in Belgrade

Eliud Kipchoge, the winner of the Doha 5000m (Jiro Mochizuki)Eliud Kipchoge, the winner of the Doha 5000m (Jiro Mochizuki) © Copyright
Former World 5000m champion Eliud Kipchoge was beaten by a whisker to the Commonwealth title yesterday (6) by Moses Kipsiro of neighbouring Uganda. But the Kenyan has an early opportunity to return to winning ways, and to make another bit of history in the Belgrade Race Through History next Wednesday (13).
 
But the task won’t be any easier for Kipchoge, because he faces a fine field for this 6 kilometer mix of road, cobblestones and grass around Belgrade’s Kalemegdan Fortress. And the opposition all comes from Kenya, albeit the mercurial Saif Saaeed Shaheen who now runs for Qatar. Long-term injuries have blunted Shaheen’s speed, if not his audacious style and, like Kipchoge, he will have a hard time coping with two of the emergent talents of the year – Josphat Menjo, fastest man of the season over 10,000m (26:56.74), and the teenaged Dennis Masai, who won the World junior 5000/10,000m double, in Moncton, Canada, this summer.
 
The Race Through History was only revived last year after a six-year hiatus, linked to the dire economic situation in Serbia. But last year’s makeshift field has been drastically upgraded with this quartet, and next Wednesday’s race promises to put it firmly back on the calendar.
 
“We still don’t have a title sponsor,” said Dejan Nikolic, who is also the Race Director of the Belgrade Marathon. “But with some help from the city we decided to go ahead with the event, and hope this will be the turning point for our fortunes.”

Among the other entries, there will be much interest in the progress of Jake and Zane Robertson. The New Zealand twins emigrated to Kenya over three years ago, at the age of 17, and live and train alongside the locals in Iten. The 20-year-old twins have started to make low-key forays into European events, both on the track and the road. Jake has been the more successful so far, finishing a close fourth in the Prague 10k last month in 28:32 (five seconds behind winner Mourad Marofit of Morocco), and recording 13:32.92 on the track at Nijmegen in May. In his first road race further than four miles, Zane finished sixth in Prague, and as a 19-year-old ran 1500m in 3:41.72.

Their manager, Zane Branson predicts a bright future for the young Kiwis. "I believe that it is imperative that both Jake and Zane's progress is planned in a way that will see them through at least the next 10 years with hopes of seeing them representing New Zealand in the World Championships and Olympic Games. Without a single visit home since they moved to East Africa, their experience of living and training there for such a length of time is probably unique for such young non-African athletes. I suppose this is what makes their story interesting."

Pat Butcher for the IAAF