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Kosgei leaves a legacy


Phil Minshull for the IAAF

There can be few better ways of learning how to win a world junior title than ask the man who won it before you - and life is made much easier if you are a Kenyan steeplechaser because you don't have to look very far.

That's what Raymond Yator did - and with stunning ease he became the 7th consecutive runner from his country to win the world junior steeplechase title.

"I train with Reuben Kosgei, Bernard Barmasai and Patrick Sang... and Kosgei told me all about what it was like when he won the world junior championships two years ago," Yator said.

"Kosgei gave me some advice about what to expect, so I was always sure I would win. But I've never seen his gold medal (from Annecy) and I have not had a chance to talk to him since he won the Olympics because he was coming back from Sydney while I was coming here."

Yator could afford to exude confidence, coming to Chile with a personal best nearly 30 seconds better than the next best junior in the world, after having set a world junior best 8:03.74 at the Monaco Golden League meeting.

His performance of 8:16.34 shaved more than seven seconds from Kosgei's championships best but Yator hardly noticed what he had achieved.

"I was not watching the clock. I never watch the times. This felt like a good race just like my 8:03 felt like a good race," he added nonchalantly.

In fact, if there is a Swahili word for nonchalant it as well be, to those unfamiliar with the language, Yator.

He hardly showed the elation of a champion after his triumph. By comparison his compatriot David Chemweno was elated with his silver medal, and in the mixed zone was shaking the hands of anyone who thrust their own in his general direction.

But for Yator, who comes from the town of Kendur, winning in Santiago was at last some compensation for failing to make the Kenyan Olympic team and accompanying his friend Kosgei to Sydney.

"I hit a barrier in the Kenyan Olympic trails, fell and finished fifth. So I came here instead," Yator said, in his usual matter-of-fact fashion.

Many of the champions in Santiago are school and university students who will probably one day make a living from the sport but Yator has already decided that coming from a country where the average earnings are around $300 a year he will put his earnings before education.

However he has no regrets and hopes that he can follow in the footsteps of Kosgei and graduate quickly from being the world junior champion to becoming a senior world or Olympic winner.

"I know what Kosgei has done so maybe I can do it as well, God willing," the teenager phenomenon commented dryly.

One thing that will help him on his way to Athens is his outstanding hurdling, among the best exhibited by the current crop of Kenyans who dominate the event.

Yator insisted though that he has done nothing special to home his technique.

"I'm lucky. I have not worked on it. I think it has come just because, like most Kenyans, I have done a lot of running in the woods and hills."

With luck like that then he has every chance of emulating Kosgei, and having another gold medal hung around his neck in the near future.

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