Updated 31 July 2012
Asbel KIPROP Kipruto, Kenya
Born: 30 June 1989, Kaptinga (20km from Eldoret), Uasin Gishu District, Rift Valley Province
1.88m (6’ 2”) / 62kgs
Lives in Eldoret
Manager: Federico Rosa
The name Kiprop means one born in the rainy season.
His father, David Kebenei, finished 4th for Kenya at 1,500m at the 1987 All Africa Games in Nairobi
Two years before he was born, Asbel Kiprop’s father – David Kebenei - finished 4th for Kenya at 1,500m at the 1987 All Africa Games in Nairobi. It did not take Asbel long to do even better – at the age of 18, the youngster whose hero and role model is Hicham El Guerrouj won the 1,500m at the 2007 All Africa Games in Algiers.
Since that win in Algeria, he has cemented his place as one of the best middle distance athletes of his generation as a growing maturity and cutting out of erratic tactics has seen him claim an Olympic gold, a World crown as well as an African Athletics Championships title.
This year, he added fast times to his repertoire finally going under the 3:30 mark for the first time in his career and the 3:28.88 he posted in Monaco on July 20 made him the fifth fastest 1500m athlete of all time.
In London, he will thus be looking to become only the second man-after Sebastian Coe to successfully defend his Olympic title over the distance. Having initially been awarded silver in Beijing before being upgraded to gold after Bahraini athlete Rashid Ramzi failed a dope test, Kiprop is looking forward to doing it the ‘proper way’ at the Games.
Eloquent and intelligent but at times erratic both in his running and life, Kiprop’s reaction to the news that he would be awarded his first gold was typical of the man. “I am happy because I have gotten what is mine. It was unfair to compete with a person who was using drugs but at least there is some sense of justice.”
“I am disappointed that he denied Kenya a chance to have its national anthem played at the stadium. It could have been more special if I had won it in the stadium rather than to be awarded later,” he added.
The second born in a family of three, he started running while at Kaptinga Primary School, winning zonal competitions. But his father advised him to halt running until his body had developed.
Kiprop resumed while at Kaptinga Secondary School in 2003 and dropped out of school to concentrate on athletics. He teamed up with coach Jimmy Beauttah, who has trained former greats such as Moses Kiptanui and Daniel Komen, and, in June 2006, he took part in trials to select the Kenyan team for the World Junior Championships, in Beijing.
Although he could only manage fourth position, missing out on a place in the team, Kiprop was introduced to Martin Keino, the son of the legendary Kipchoge Keino. The younger Keino, also a former athlete, saw the raw talent and, in October 2006, Kiprop joined the Kip Keino High Performance Training Centre in Eldoret.
Not a fan of cross country, Kiprop had to be cajoled and convinced by Beauttah to take part in the cross country season prior to the 2007 World Championships in his home country, in Mombasa. In December 2006, he finished 14th in an 8km junior men’s race in Eldoret and, in January 2007, he finished 11th in another junior 8km race in Eldoret.
On February 10, Kiprop finished second in the boys’ 8km race during the national cross country championships in Mombasa, a dry run for the World Championships. However, at the trials to select the team, held at Ngong racecourse on February 24, he faded to 11th. But he was included because of his strong showing at the national championships.
Kiprop could not have done more to repay the selectors, leading a Kenyan 1-2-3-4 finish – a perfect 10 - in the Junior Men’s race on March 24. Running in his first international race, he went into the final kilometre behind Leonard Komon and Vincent Kiprop but shifted through the gears to win by a comfortable margin.
Afterwards, not even the pain from blistered feet could dampen his joy, “To represent my country at an international event in Kenya 20 years after my father did makes me feel like I am continuing his legacy,” he said.
“I didn’t want to run in cross country but my coach convinced me to run as part of my build-up to the season. I am not sure how I won the race because for me it was a build up and I consider cross country like training for track.”
He shifted his focus to they track and on April 1, he won the 3,000m (8:02.16) at the Mauritius International at the Maryse Justin Stadium, Réduit. In Turin on June 8, he improved his PB to 7:42:32.Then, in his speciality event, the 1,500m, he won two week-end meets in Nakuru to qualify for the national championships.
At the national championships in mid-June, Kiprop easily won his heat posting a time of 3:41.6 to qualify for the final, where he again emerged victorious (3:43.0). Buried deep in the field, Kiprop accelerated in the final 150 metres for his first national title. On July 2, he competed in the IAAF Super Grand Prix meeting, in Athens, where - despite finishing 12th - he set a new PB of 3:35:81.
A week later, Kiprop competed in Lausanne where finished 11th in 3:41.605. Then he was off to Algiers for the All Africa Games. In the final, he hung on in the back of the pack until the final straight, where he unleashed his devastating kick to edge out the pre-race favourites from the home nation, Tarek Boukensa and Antar Zerguelaine, to win gold in 3:38:97.
Invited to take part in the trials, on July 28, to select the squad for the World Championships, again Kiprop stuck to his plan. He was sixth position until the last 100 metres, where he moved outside and sped to victory ahead of his more illustrious opponents, Alex Kipchirchir and Daniel Komen. His winning time (3:35:50) was his then PB.
In Osaka, Kiprop easily won his heat to qualify for the Semi-Finals where he placed third to qualify for the Final. His inexperience told in the Final as he finished just outside the medal bracket in a new PB of 3:35.24.
Kiprop skipped the 2008 cross country season opting instead to concentrate on the track with the Olympic Games in mind. Just like 2007, he started his track season at the Mauritius International meet in Reduit where he won the 3,000m in 8:21:24 in April.
Kiprop opted for 800m instead of his preferred 1,500m at the national trials for the African Athletics Championships as he sought to build up on his speed. He won his heat but finished second behind World Junior and Africa Youth Champion David Rudisha in an impressive 1:44.99.
At the African Championships Kiprop won bronze in 800m in 1:46.02 before going back to the High Performance Training Centre to train for the Beijing national trials.
The 1,500 metres was the most competitive race with World leader Daniel Kipchirchir Komen, former African champion Alex Kipchirchir, African championship Haron Keitany, Commonwealth 5,000metres champ Augustine Choge and African silver medalist Gideon Gathimba all on show. Kiprop applied his trademark late burst to finish second (3:36.53) and book a spot in Beijing.
A week later, Kiprop set a seasonal best when he won 1,500 metres race at the Golden Gala in Rome. The lanky athlete powered forward in the final straight to win in 3:31.64. He however could not keep up his winning streak in Paris, finishing second to Choge in 3:32.78, before returning to Kenya to finalise preparations for the Olympic Games in the training camp set up by the National Olympic Committee of Kenya.
In Beijing, he effortlessly cruised through to the final where he lined up against Ramzi. The Bahraini’s turn of speed in the last 200 metres was just too much for Kiprop and he had to settle for silver in 3:33.11, a result which was later changed to gold after Ramzi failed a doping test.
Running the 800 metres early on in the season had spurred the lanky athlete and he dabbled with it in Lausanne in September recording a seasonal best of 1:44.71. Kiprop rounded off a successful year with a second place finish at the World Athletics Final in Stuttgart in a time of 3:37.93.
Despite having no interest in cross country, Kiprop nevertheless took part in the season at the start of 2009 to help his Kenya Police team.
At the national trials cum championships held on 21 February, he set off at a furious pace as he bid to help his friend Mathew Kisorio make the team which he duly did (Kisorio finished second).
He then had a fallout at the IOC High Performance Training Centre in Eldoret, where he had been based, which led to him being expelled. It was said that he had received a female visitor which did not go down well with the administrators. Kiprop however refuted the allegations and though National Olympic Committee of Kenya chairman Kipchoge Keino extended him an olive branch that he can be readmitted if he apologies, he opted instead to pitch tent with Federico Rosa.
Soon, he shifted focus to what he does best, running and chief among his aim was to have a crack at dipping under the 1:44 barrier at the Doha Super Grand Prix in Qatar. “I will be running in the 800 metres race as I am chasing a 1:43 and hopefully I will attain that time,” he stated before the race. He duly attained his objective clocking 1:43.17 – a new personal best to finish second behind Abubaker Kaki of Sudan.
That performance ignited debate on whether he was planning to double in 800m and 1,500m in Berlin (such is the esteem he is held in that qualifying for the World Championships for Kiprop was a foregone conclusion that early in the season). “If given the chance, I will double but it depends on whether Athletics Kenya will enter me in both races and the timetable in Berlin,” Kiprop maintained.
On 1 June, Kiprop won in Hengelo (3:34.45, 1,500m) following that up with another win six days later before turning tables in Eugene, Oregon over One Mile on his friend Haron Keitany, the last man to beat him in his choice race. Kiprop clocked a career best 3:48.50 to beat Keitany (3:48.78) who denied had him gold in Stuttgart. “We will continue chasing each other on the track. He is a strong runner and competition between us is healthy since we push each other to the limits,” Kiprop said of Keitany after tying their personal duel 1-1.
After being beaten to third (1:44.54, 17 June) in the two-lap race in Ostrava, the 1,500m field collected at the Rome Golden Gala (10 July) was devastated by a personal best effort of 3:31.20 by Kiprop.
However, despite racing his quickest 1,500m, Kiprop was not a happy lad. “I wanted to run under 3:30 in Rome but I did not. I like setting and achieving my goals but I fell just short,” he said. He responded by overwhelming the 800m line-up at Athens Grand Prix in 1:43.48 three days later for his second fastest career time.
Kiprop returned to prepare for the Kenyan Trials and roared on by an ecstatic crowd of 10,000m, the show pony duly responded by giving his compatriots a new soil record of 3:32.82 in the 1,500m.
Keitany (3:33.59) and Choge (3:33.86) filed in to fill the podium for the right to wear the Kenyan vest alongside Kiprop. Expectant fans that were willing him on to line up for the 800m race were disappointed when the starting gun went off without their star. “I was told not to compete by the team physio after I felt my muscles tighten as I was warming down. As to whether I will compete in both races in Berlin, we’ll wait and see,” Kiprop said.
With selectors only picking three 800m runners for Berlin with four slots available Kiprop was handed the wild card to attempt the 800 and 1500 metre double.
Heavily tipped to win the 1500m World title, Kiprop easily qualified for the semis after winning his heat and repeated the same trick to qualify for the final. But despite the ease with which he qualified, critics including the legendary Kipchoge Keino cautioned him against his tactics of running from behind saying he needed to stay near the leaders to have a tilt at winning.
The cocky athlete failed to heed the warnings and on the 19 August final, he again stayed at the back as the athletes went through the first three laps. His attempts to get back into the race in the final 150 metres were not enough as he could only manage fourth place in 3:36.47 as Youssef Saad Kamel registered a surprise win.
Afterwards, there were reports that he had refused to follow team tactics which had been for Augustine Choge and him to take turns in setting the pace.
The following day he lined up in the opening heats of the 800 metres easily qualifying for the semis. Drawn in a tough semi that included Kamel, Yuriy Borzakovskiy, Mbulaeni Mulaudzi and Alfred Kirwa Yego, Kiprop set off like a bullet in the first lap but then came unstuck as the gladiators behind him roared past and he ended up in seventh place in 1:52.05.
Kiprop nest competed in Zurich, clocking 3:34.09 for third in his last performance of the season.
The lanky athlete dabbled in indoor athletics in early 2010 running personal bests in the One Mile race in New York on 29 January (3:58.03i) at the GE Galan meet in Stockholm on 10 February at 800 metres (1:47.25).
Moving to the outdoor season, Olympic champion returned a seasonal best in 800m (1:43.45) for fourth at the Doha Diamond League meet on 14 May and on 23 May, ran a seasonal best in 1500m (3:32.22) just behind Augustine Choge (3:32.20) at the Shanghai Diamond League meet.
At the Bislett meet in Oslo on 4 June he set another seasonal best, in the Mile, clocking 3:49.56 for his first victory of the year on the international circuit.
A third win at the national championships cum trials in 3:33.69 booked him a ticket for the African Athletics Championships.
He followed it with another One Mile win at Prefontaine Classic in Eugene (3:49.75) and a 1500m win at Gateshead (3:33.34) in the build up to Nairobi 2010.
Ever the show man, Kiprop’s run was highly anticipated in Nairobi especially with the emergence of Silas Kiplagat who had run 3:29:27 in Monaco on the eve of the continental event.
The tall athlete did not disappoint, coming home in first place in 3:36.19, but not before he had waved his trademark finger in the air as he started his celebrations 50 metres to the finish line.
With the African crown firmly on his head, Kiprop set for Brussels on 27 August where a win would bring him the Diamond League trophy. He certainly meant business, staying just behind the pacemakers before going flat out to win in a time of 3:32.18 and with it a USD 40,000 cheque as well as a Diamond trophy for his efforts.
Two days later, he set a season’s best time of 3:31.78, in Rieti, with the added bonus of inflicting a second defeat on the world’s fastest athlete in 2010 Silas Kiplagat.
However, the unpredictable nature of the Olympic champion came to the fore at the Continental Cup in Split where he inexplicably faded to sixth with 3:38.81.
At the start of 2011, Kiprop made the rather peculiar statement that, “If I don’t dip under 3:30 this season, I will move up to 5000m,” as once again, he declined the offer to compete in Cross Country saying, “I need more speed to achieve my aim and that cannot be done in cross.”
That is what informed Kiprop to feature in more 800m races to get some thrust in his lanky legs.
The 2007 World Cross junior champion did however; demonstrate what a good cross runner he is after finishing second (4km) behind Olympics 1500m silver winner, Eliud Kipchoge at the BUPA Edinburgh event on 8 January, but any hopes he would continue in the soft surface competition were laid to rest.
In a display of good early season form, he opened his Diamond League 800m/1500m double assault in Doha with victory (1:44.74/800m/6 May), finishing second in Shanghai (3:31.76/1500m/15 May) and fourth in Rome (1:46.02/800m/26 May).
At the start of June,
(4) Kiprop was beaten to third by his local rivals, Keitany and Kiplagat, at the One Mile race at the DL Prefontaine Classic, in Oregon, but he did run his SB of 3:49.55 before he turned the tables on his rivals five days later when he took top honours over the same distance in 3:50.86 when the elite circuit made its stop at the Bislett Games in Oslo.
True to his mould, Kiprop contrived to finish ninth in Lausanne (800m/1:49.72/30 June) before returning home to face his domestic challengers at the National Athletics Championships cum Trials for Daegu.
Although he came in as the headline act, having not lost at the stadium in three years, the Olympic champion had his plate full with no less than six contenders for the three tickets featuring in the world Top 10 (led then by Nixon Chepseba).
No doubt, this was THE race of the meet and so it proved. “Kenya has never won a gold medal at the World Championships but this year, we have the best chance since we have so many runners in good form. My wish is just to be in the team,” Kiprop stated before the showdown.
Silas Kiplagat, Haron Keitany, Caleb Mwangangi Ndiku, and Daniel Kipchirchir Komen were others featuring high up in the world list.
Kiprop underlined his top seed status by winning his heat (3:44.4hA) and semi (3:39.5hA) but not even he was prepared for what transpired at the final where Kiplagat showed a devastating turn in for to blast to a soil record of 3:31.39! The mark would have been more astronomical had he not turned back in the last 50m to taunt his lankier rival who came home in 3:32.26 for second.
“I’m grateful to have made the team. Silas was in a different level today but the hard part of qualifying is done with, now it’s time to train for the World Championships and work on my ambitions of realising my dream of winning gold,” the Beijing and African champion observed.
On his return to the DL racing in Monaco (22 July), Kiprop opted for the 800m, where he returned a lifetime best of 1:43.15 for second as he bravely squared off with World record holder David Rudisha, who won in a season best and world lead 1:42.61.
He was once again second to the 1500m Commonwealth titleholder Kiplagat at his next DL and last pre-Daegu race in Stockholm (29 July) with the timer stopping at 3:34.42.
When quizzed on what the imperious shape of Kiplagat portended for him in Korea, Kiprop said, “He is my teammate and we shall partner to ensure the elusive gold medal comes back home.”
In Daegu, Kiprop breezed through the heats to easily make the final where he would be up against Kiplagat. This time though Kiprop meant business. Never hanging around the back of the pack, he stayed right behind the leaders and when Kiplagat made a move with 300 to go, he responded by stretching his long legs to gold in a time of 3:35.69 ahead of his nemesis who clinched silver.
He wound up the season in Rieti where he clocked a seasonal best time of 3:30.46 on 10 September to wrap up a hugely satisfying year.
Kiprop started the Olympic year with several cross country races, including a win at the BUPA Cross country run in Edinburgh in January and set a seasonal best time of 1:45.91 in 800 metres in February in Sydney.
Then in Doha in May, he dipped under the 3:30 mark for the first time ever, finishing behind Kiplagat in 3:29.78. The race was not without controversy as the winner seemed to push Kiprop as they duelled in the final straight, which caused him to stumble.
At the Prefontaine Classic in Eugene on 2 June, he easily won the Mile race in 3:49.40 and five days later, in Oslo, he set a seasonal best in the same distance timing 3:49.22.
Understandably, the 1500 metres race at the Kenyan Olympic Trials on 23 June was the most eagerly awaited event, with many predicting a closely fought encounter. They were not disappointed. While Kiplagat ran away with victory and 2011 Diamond League winner Nixon Chepseba came in second, the Olympic champion had an almighty scare as he just about squeezed through after finishing third (3:38.3).
But in Monaco in July, Kiprop showed why he will be the man to beat in London with a blistering performance. Running with Chepseba, he took the lead at the bell and then wound up the pace down the back straight before tearing away to record the fifth fastest time of all time (3:28.88).
"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," he told the IAAF website after the race.
Going into London, his rivalry with Kiplagat will definitely dominate the three and three quarter lap race. Just like Coe and Steve Ovett in the early eighties, they both hail from the same country and are currently ranked first and second in the world this year. That they do not get along off the track only adds spice to the rivalry.
“It’s hard to pick who between the three of us will win the gold medal. But I am sure that the Olympic record of 3:32.07 set by Noah Ngeny 12 years ago will be broken,” he said.
800m: 1:43.15 (2011)
1,500m: 3:28.88 (2012)
3000m: 7:42.32 (2007)
One Mile: 3:48.50 (2009)
800m: 2008: 1:44.71, 2009:1:43.17; 2010:1:43.45; 2011:1:43.15; 2012:1:45.91
1,500m: 2007:3:35:24, 2008: 3:31.64; 2009: 3:31.20; 2010: 3:31.78; 2011:3:30.46; 2012:3:28.88
One Mile: 2009-3:48.50; 2010-3:49.56; 2011-3:49.55; 2012- 3:49.22
3000m: 2007 - 7:42.32, 2008 - 8:21.24; 2009: -/; 2010: 7:53.22; 2011: -/; 2012: -/;
2007 1st World Cross Country Championships (Mombasa) (Junior race)
2007 1st All Africa Games (Algiers) (1,500m)
2007 4th World Championships (Osaka) (1,500m)
2008 3rd African Athletics Championships (Addis Ababa) (800m)
2008 1st Olympic Games (Beijing) (1,500m)
2008 2nd World Athletics Final (Stuttgart) (1,500m)
2009 4th World Championships (Berlin) (1500m)
2009 7th SF World Championships (Berlin) (800m)
2010 1st African Athletics Championships Nairobi) (1500m)
2010 6th Continental Cup (Split) (1500m)
2011 1st World Athletics Championships (Daegu) (1500m)
Prepared by James Wokabi and Mutwiri Mutuota for the IAAF ‘Focus on Athletes’ project. © IAAF 2007-2012.