Asbel Kiprop is back in Monaco – and in pursuit of the world 1500m record.
Kenya’s double world champion, who ran the fourth-fastest time ever recorded, 3:27.72, in winning here last year, has targeted his return to the IAAF Diamond League meeting in Stade Louis II on Friday (18) for an attempt to better that mark – and to challenge the 16-year-old world record of 3:26.00 set in Rome by Hicham El Guerrouj.
“I have come here hoping for a faster time than last year, and with a target of 3:26,” he said. “I believe I can get close to it or even better. I have come here to try. If you try and fail, you might get disappointed. But if you don’t try, you will be disappointed.”
Kiprop set the fastest 800m time of the year – 1:43.34 – in winning at the IAAF Diamond League meeting in Paris on 5 July, a race he said was “part of his preparation” for his 1500m in Monaco.
“My idea in Paris was to run a 1:44, but in the final 200m I felt I could do more,” he said. “I enjoy it every time I come to Monaco. In 2011 I ran my 800m personal best of 1:43.15, in 2012 I had the world-leading 1500m time of 3:28.88, and last year it was the fourth-fastest time ever.”
Kiprop was sitting alongside his fellow Kenyan, friend and near neighbour in Eldoret – Olympic 800m champion David Rudisha, who equalled Kiprop’s world-leading 800m mark a week later at the IAAF Diamond League meeting in Glasgow.
For Rudisha, Monaco is the next step in his return to peak fitness following a year’s absence due to a knee injury.
“It’s been a difficult year for me,” Rudisha said. “Coming back from injury hasn’t been an easy job. I wanted to come back with a time of around 1:44, which I did in Eugene, and I was happy with that. Then afterwards I wanted a win to help me get back my confidence. So my shape is progressing; I am coming along.
“Asbel is a good friend of mine. We sometimes run together in the mornings when we see each other in Eldoret. He lives about 200m away from me. I watched his race in Paris when he did 1:43.34 – I didn’t think he was going to run that fast! So when he did that, of course I had to push my training.
“I want to improve with each race and closing the season with 1:42 would be great. But if I feel great, I could even do that 1:42 here.”
Ukraine’s world high jump champion Bogdan Bondarenko and Qatar’s world indoor high jump champion Mutaz Essa Barshim will be among six men competing in Stade Louis II who have cleared 2.40m or higher.
Neither of them is underestimating the difficulty of surpassing Javier Sotomayor’s 1993 world record of 2.45m, but both believe that, if and when one of the growing number of serious contenders breaks that mark, others will swiftly follow.
“For someone to break the world record, everything will have to be at 100 per cent,” said Barshim, who cleared 2.42m at the New York IAAF Diamond League meeting, but lost on count-back to the Ukrainian; an unusual experience.
“But if it goes one time, I believe it is going to go again. It is not going to stand as long as the current record.
Bondarenko agreed. “It is very hard, but if one person can jump it, I think all the other people will want to do it,” he said.
Barshim added: “I think this is going to be a good competition. To have six athletes jumping over 2.40m is history in itself. Any high jumper wants to be in such a great field. Hopefully we will push each other to great heights tomorrow.
“I think it’s easier when you have everybody in a competition. You can have a good performance when you are alone, but if you want to do something spectacular you need something like that.”
Bondarenko concurred. “I think it is best for the jumpers, and the people watching, when there are many people in the competition,” he said.
Barshim added that tomorrow’s event would be the last for a while at which he competed with a full run up, as it puts too much pressure on a weakness in his back.
Aries Merritt, Olympic champion and world record-holder in the 110m hurdles, is back – and hoping for a time in the low 13-second region.
After one low-key race at the beginning of May, the US sprint hurdler is running what will effectively be his first serious race of the season after recovering from injuries to both his hamstrings.
“It’s good to be back,” he said “I am ready to open up and start my season. I’ve been 100 per cent for about two weeks now. The last time I raced here, I ran a meeting record of 12.93. So to come back in a place where you have good memories is an advantage.
“I don’t want to put a time out there. Just hopefully I can run low 13s. I don’t think I’m at quite 12-second shape yet, but trust me it is coming very soon. This is going to be pretty much the first race of the year. On 3 May (when he clocked 13.78) I was sick and injured. I wanted to see what I could do. After two hurdles I wanted to finish, but I didn’t want to just stop.
“I think a few athletes are running well and a few aren’t performing to the best of their ability. But this is a year, especially for Americans, which isn’t important in terms of a big championship. Athletes preparing for the Commonwealth Games and European Championships will be faster and sharper.”
Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce and Allyson Felix, who will compete in the 100m, are looking for different things from the race.
Fraser-Pryce, the world and Olympic champion, is still recovering full form after suffering the foot injury which has prevented her from entering an individual event at this month’s Commonwealth Games in Glasgow – where she will run in the 4x100m relay.
“Coming back is not easy,” said the Jamaican. “I have been trying to get over the injury but I have not been able to work consistently in the last two or three months. Running 11.10 in Glasgow last weekend felt really good. But now I want to build on that.”
Felix, the Olympic 200m champion, added that she was doing the shorter sprint as part of her sharpening for the 200m.
“The 100m is more of a challenge for me as I have issues with my start. It also helps me keep my 200m in shape. That’s what I’m doing this month, working on my start and my acceleration.”
Three of the leading French athletes here – Christophe Lemaitre, Pascal Martinot-Lagarde and Pierre-Ambroise Bosse – turned up in party mood with sparkling hats and multi-coloured garlands.
The mood was equally light as they looked ahead to their various competitions.
“There is a great field tomorrow in the 200m and I am expecting to improve my season’s best of 20.11 in my last race before the European Championships, where I will run the 100m and 200m,” said Lemaitre.
Martinot-Lagarde reflected on how he had wanted to run faster than 13 seconds for the 110m hurdles at the French championships. “I was disappointed I only ran 13.10. In warm-up we had some rain, and there was not great opposition. But here I’m looking forward to a great race.”
Bosse, who heads the 2014 European lists for the 800m, said he was expecting Rudisha to run 1:42 in tomorrow’s race, which is not a scoring race for the Diamond Race.
“Why not be behind him, why not be the hunter?” he added. “He is not a god. He is beatable. We have seen him come sixth in Eugene. It is not easy but we will see.”
Mike Rowbottom for the IAAF