21 OCT 2000 General News

Chirchir keeps it in the family


Phil Minshull for the IAAF

22 October 2000 - Spectators who were at the last world junior championships in Annecy need no reminding of the effortless long-striding gait of William Chirchir.

The Kenyan hardly seemed to touch the ground as he floated to the 800 metres title in France.

Turn the clock forward two years to Santiago and you could be forgiven for thinking that he had forged his passport and had returned to acquire another title.

However any confusion can be excused as instead of it being William on the start line of the men's 1500 it was his younger carbon-copy brother Cornelius, who won the World Youth 1500m title in Poland last year.

Cornelius upgraded his gold medal to Junior status by winning the 1500 with ease, running at the front for the entire race, and the Chirchirs became only the second set of brothers to win world junior gold medals since their compatriots Jonah and Matthew Birir.

"This was an easy race from me. I've run 3:35 so 3:38 is very comfortable for me," Chirchir said.

"I knew that no one in the field was as fast as me so that is why I got to the front quickly and put in a fast first lap. It avoided trouble and I knew that no one else could stay with me on the final lap after that. It was all planned," he added.

Nevertheless, even though he never expected anything less than a gold medal, Chirchir was still delighted with having emulated his brother.

"Kenya has been doing very well at this championship so I couldn't let the side down. I also wanted to win for my brother because I was watching what happened to him at the Olympics on TV at home in Kenya."

In Sydney, William Chirchir was jostled during his heat and failed to progress to the semifinals but protests and counter-protests had his fate oscillating for nearly 48 hours.

In years to come the brothers may be room mates at major championships but for the moment William is the senior partner in the relationship.

Last year William rarely let his younger brother train with him, suggesting that Cornelius couldn't handle the training load. This year, as Cornelius' body has matured, the pair now train together when William returns home and Cornelius has holidays from his studies at the famous St Patrick's school.

The Chirchir family production line has not come to an end though, Vincent and Kipnyego back home and waiting for their chance to impress.

"Last year I didn't let them train with me, I preferred to train alone," Cornelius laughed. "But now we train together sometimes."

Despite Kenya's great tradition at cross country running, it is not one that Chirchir intends to pursue just yet. "Firstly my studies are very important and also I don't like cross country -

- the races are too long. It blunts my speed."

On a day when he won the 1500m gold as casually as a walk in the park, Chirchir indicated that such an activity was about as close as he would get to running over rough terrain.