(Updated 15 September 2006)
Alex KIPCHIRCHIR, Kenya (800/1500/mile)
Born 26 November, 1984, Sergoit (near Eldoret), Uasin Gishu district, Rift Valley Province, Kenya
Lives near Eldoret and based partly in Portland, Oregon.
Manager: Federico Rosa. Coach: David Leting, John Cook.
Oldest of four children. Father a farmer, mother a businesswoman selling beans, maize. Native language Keiyo (a Kalenjin language).
After completing elementary school in Eldoret 20 km away from his home, Alex Kipchirchir began running and excelling at it while a boarding student at Litein High School in the Kericho district, but he also played hockey and basketball and hoped to pursue soccer, in which he represented his village at the district level and his school all the way to the national level. Unable to afford continuing his education, he turned to running in 2001.
He was introduced by a soccer acquaintance to two-time Boston marathon champion Moses Tanui and joined him in a training camp where he trained in 2002, making the 800m national team for the World Junior Championships in Kingston, Jamaica. Despite stumbling on the final turn, he won a tight race in 1:46.59 over Salem Al-Badri of Qatar (1:46.63) and Luxembourg's David Fiegen (1:46.66).
Having joined Italian manager Federico Rosa’s group of athletes, Kipchirchir raced frequently beginning in Italy and continuing on to Golden League races in Europe, including the Zurich 1500m “B” race in a personal best 3:32.95.
He placed fourth over 1500m behind Paul Korir, Isaac Songok and Bernard Lagat in the 2003 Kenyan trials for the World Championships. Running against Morocco’s World champion Hicham El Guerrouj took Kipchirchir to new heights over the next couple of years, beginning with new PBs he clocked in Zurich (3:32.35) and Brussels (3:31.42) and a World junior record 3:50.25 for the mile in Rieti, where he gave the Moroccan (who won in 3:50.20) a real run for his money.
In 2004, Kipchirchir ran indoors in the U.S., including winning in what are still his indoor PBs, 1:48.91 for 800m in Gainesville, and 4:03.80 for the mile in Fayetteville. He then gave El Guerrouj one of his tightest finishes when he stayed on his heels throughout the outdoor 1500m in Zaragoza, Spain on 9 June and ran 3:36.49 to the Moroccan’s 3:36.46.
Kipchirchir lowered his PB in Brussels again, to 3:30.42, placing third behind Timothy Kiptanui and Ivan Heshko and beating Olympic medalists Lagat and Rui Silva of Portugal. He was fourth at the Olympic trials behind Songok, Lagat and Kiptanui, but won in Rieti and placed second at the World Athletics Final 1500m for the second year in a row (behind Paul Korir in 2003, and Ivan Heshko in 2004).
Kipchirchir began to come into his own in 2005, winning the 800m in windy conditions in Hengelo and in a PB 1:45.54 in Oslo. He also set new PBs while winning at the Prefontaine Classic mile (3:50.91) in a fast finish ahead of (now American) Lagat and Bahrain’s Rashid Ramzi; and the Reebok 1000m in New York (2:16.94). He placed third over 1500m behind Daniel Kipchirchir Komen and Paul Korir at the World Championships trials to make the Helsinki team (where he was 7th in 3:40.43).
But the biggest breakthroughs came in 2006. He won the Commonwealth Games 800m in a season best 1:45.88 (apart from a 1:45.0 at altitude reported at the Kenyan championships in Nairobi 1 July). He swept the 800/1500 at the African Championships, prevailing in a dramatic photo finish over 800m, and holding off World silver medalist Adil Kaouch of Morocco in the 1500m to represent the continent at the Athens World Cup in the longer event.
Kipchirchir also showed his talent on the meetings circuit, winning the opening leg of the Golden League at 800m in Oslo, and was second in Paris (to Heshko in a season best 3:31.36), Zurich and Brussels, in a series in which only Kenya’s Augustine Choge emerged a repeat winner. But Kipchirchir sent a signal at the World Athletics Final on 10 September, when he outkicked Lagat to win in a meet record 3:32.76, with Choge third.
In Athens, Heshko looks to be Kipchirchir’s primary challenger as the Kenyan, ranked N.1 over 1500m in the IAAF World Rankings, makes his first serious bid for a senior global title.
Yearly Progression 800/1500/mile: 2002 – 1:45.5A/ 3:32.95/ - ; 2003 – 1:45.93/ 3:31.42/ 3:50.25 (WJR); 2004 – 1:48.91i/ 3:30.46/ - ; 2005 – 1:45.54/3:30.82/ 3:50.91; 2006 – 1:45.88 (1:45.0A Kenyan Championships, Nairobi)/ / 3:31.36/ 3:50.32.
2006 World Athletics Final 1st 1500m
2006 African Championships 1st 800m/1500m
2006 Commonwealth Games 1st 800m
2005 World Athletics Final 3rd 1500m
2005 World Championships 7th 1500m
2004 World Athletics Final 2nd 1500m
2003 World Athletics Final 2nd 1500m
2002 World Junior Championships 1st 800m
Prepared by Sabrina Yohannes for the IAAF "Focus on Athletes" project. © 2006 IAAF.