Abraham Kosgei CHEBII (chehBEE), Kenya (3000m/5000m/cross country)
Born 23 Dec. 1979, Kaptabuk, near Kapsowar, Marakwet Dist., Rift Valley Prov., Kenya
Completed Marakwet High School 1997.
Lives mainly in Eldoret.
Married Sally Jepchumba 2002; children Nixon (2003), Victoria (2005)
Manager: KIMbia (Tom Ratcliffe). Coach: Dieter Hogen.
Native language: Marakwet (Kalenjin). Third of seven children. Father small-scale farmer.
Began running in secondary school, mainly 800m and 1500m, with modest success (10th in provincial championship in final year of high school). An excellent student, he was granted a place in Kenyatta University in Nairobi but was unable to enroll for lack of fees. Inspired by success of local boy Moses Kiptanui, he decided to try to make a living as a runner. Stayed with relatives in the running center Iten for three months from August 1998, training with established athletes two or three times a day. Entered a few open cross country meets in December; placed 4th in Fila Discovery junior race in Eldoret in January 1999 and was approached by Kiptanui himself, offering to take him to train with KIM athletes in Nyahururu on the other side of the Rift Valley.
Injured before 1999 cross country nationals. Recovered in time for track season. Signed by KIM and taken to Europe for six minor races at 3000m and 5000m that summer and then to Australia for winter training. Followed similar pattern next three years, with somewhat higher quality races but few victories and few top times. Also made two appearances at World Cross Country Championships with mixed results (5th at 4 km 2000; 24th at 4 km 2002). In last race of 2002 season, the GP Final in Paris, followed plodding pace in rabbitless 3000m (winning time: 8:33.42) for seven laps, then took off with 250 to go, outkicking super-kicker Paul Bitok and five other fast-finishing Kenyans to win $50,000 first-place money.
In late autumn, altered training to improve ability to stay with fast pace and finish still faster. After quick-kicking wins in first three GPs of 2003, tested new training in Oslo GL 5000 against Kenenisa Bekele, staying with 13-minute pace and streaking to the front shortly after the bell. Held lead into home straight but tied up badly and finished 4th (in PB 12:52.99) behind Kenenisa and Kenyans Sammy Kipketer and Eliud Kipchoge. A week later, in Paris, followed famous kick of Haile Gebrselassie with faster one of his own, leaving the "Emperor" nearly a second adrift (12:53.37 to 12:54.36), and a week after that blew past both Haile and Kenenisa in Rome (12:57.14).
Won Kenya's loaded World Championships trials 5000 decisively (13:24.8 at 1500m altitude) for his seventh victory in eight races (losing only Oslo), but aggravated a left calf injury that continued to bother him for the rest of the track season. Didn't win another race in 2003, biggest disappointment being 5th place finish in Paris World Championships.
Began 2004 promisingly with victory over Kipchoge in Spain's Elgoibar Cross Country and stormed to victory over 4km in Kenya's World Cross trials. Developed knee problem after trials. Pulled out of Cinque Mulini cross country in early March and wound up 19th in Kenya’s humiliating 3rd place team finish in Brussels World Cross 4 km.
The knee had recovered by the middle of the 2004 track season, but Chebii showed little of his 2003 explosiveness. After finishing a conservative 3rd in Kenya’s Olympic trials 5000 (13:27.8), he dawdled through the distance in Rome (12th in 13:08.40, nearly 22 seconds off Kipchoge’s winning time) and Zurich (5th in 13:08.01). Early reports from the Kenyan training camp were positive—all three 5000 men pushing hard and keeping up. But in speed drills shortly before flying to Athens, Chebii injured his calf again. He hobbled through his 5000 heat and qualified but says he wouldn’t have started the final if it had not been the Olympics. He dropped out half-way through the race. His calf seemed well enough to enter the World Athletics Final 3000m, but he was unable to stick with even the unrabbited pace and finished 9th in 7:54.86.
After a winter’s recovery and training, Chebii seems back in form, qualifying comfortably (4th place) at 4 km in Kenya’s World Cross trials. But the probable heavy going in St. Etienne/St. Galmier is not likely to suit his preferred fast finish. He may have to wait for track season for a true test of his recovery.
Yearly progression 3000/ 5000/ 10,000: 1999 - 7:45.29/ 13:30.41/ 28:01.63; 2000 - 7:45.63/ 13:01.9/ 28:23.95; 2001 - 7:40.30/ 13:12.53/ 27:04.20; 2002 - 7:36.11/ 12:58.98; 2003 - 7:45.21/ 12:52.99; 2004 - 7:42.52/ 13:08.01. Other PBs: 1500 - 3:38.5 (2004); mile - 3:55.31 (2000); 10 km - 27:26 (2001).
Abraham Chebii may be the most explosive kicker in recent distance running history. Even in an era in which a top-class 5000 runner has to be able to close a 13:00 race with a 55 second last lap, Chebii stands out. In the Grand Prix Final at the end of the 2002 season, he clocked 50.68 for his last 400 meters, and he didn't start his full sprint until 250 to go. As he says, however, "It is easy to kick when the pace is slow. You must be able to follow a fast pace and then kick." Which is what he trained himself to do over the 2002-2003 off-season. The most convincing evidence of that training's effectiveness came in the Rome GL, where Haile Gebrselassie, having been outsprinted by Chebii in Paris, started driving for home from 600 meters out, with Kenenisa Bekele and Chebii in tow. Haile was spent by the final turn and moved wide to let Kenenisa through, but Chebii slipped through the gap as well and bounded after the sprinting Kenenisa. He passed the Ethiopian with 50 to go and was timed at sub-25 for his last 200 -- in a 12:57 race.
Prepared by John Manners for the IAAF Focus on Africans project. © IAAF 2003-2005.