Asbel Kiprop in the pack in Monaco (Philippe Fitte) © Copyright
Shadowing the pace setters from a safe distance, he took the lead at the bell and put a bit of daylight between himself and his chief pursuer Nixon Chepseba who despite an unrelenting chase, was unable to catch the fluid, powerful strides Kiprop so confidently produced as he forged towards the finish line. 'Effortless’ is an obvious misnomer to describe a 3:28.88 run, one only four other men have ever bettered. But that’s just how Kiprop made it look.
"I wanted to come to Monaco and run 3:28 here, and I’m very happy that I was able to," said Kiprop, whose second personal best of the season and three victories in 1500m/mile races will land him in London as the man to beat. "It was a very good race and I felt very, very good. Yes, it gives me confidence."
Kiprop will now return to Kenya for a final week of training – "just some light training" he said – before heading to London next weekend to acclimatize for his Olympic title defence.
"I have to make sure that I have enough time there, to get used to the weather and make sure I race well."
It’s a date with destiny that doesn't escape the relatively young miler, who’ll try to become just the second man to ever successfully defend an Olympic 1500m title. The other – LOGOC chief and IAAF Vice President Sebastian Coe – will be in attendance.
"I would like to follow in his footsteps, and would really be happy to win the double Olympics. Then I will look forward to breaking the World record to equalise Sebastian Coe’s performance."
The two have never met – "He’s a big man, it’s not easy to meet him," Kiprop said with a wide grin – but he said he’s learned quite a bit from the man who won his second Olympic title five years before the Kenyan was born.
"I have watched his races on Youtube and it’s fantastic to see. They’re amazing to watch. He was a strong athlete. Strong mentally. Psychologically he was fantastic. And everyone would like to emulate him."
Backed up by teammates Silas Kiplagat (3:29.63, Doha) and Chepseba (3:29.77, Monaco) who finished first and second at the Kenyan trials, Kiprop will lead a formidable trio who will be gunning for a podium sweep in London. But he knows that nothing is a foregone conclusion.
"Everybody who makes it to the finals is going to be competitive because all athletes want to win the Olympic Games. After we all advance to the finals, we’re going to plan some teamwork. Then we will tackle the win and the medals."
Given his current form, would he prefer a fast race in the London final? An assured smile appeared.
"I’ll prefer any kind of race that may come. At the moment I’m prepared and ready to run. I’m prepared for anything."
Bob Ramsak for the IAAF
1999 Galfione on track