Updated 22 March 2008
Bernard Kiprop KIPYEGO, Kenya
(3000m, 5000m, 10,000m, cross country)
Born 16 July, 1986, Kapkitony Village, Keiyo District.
Height: 170cm (5'7"); weight: 50.36kg
Manager: Jos Hermens
Married to Esilyne, he has a one-and-a-half year-old daughter named Sandra.
Quiet, unassuming, and mature beyond his 21 years, Bernard Kiprop Kipyego is one of the country's new generation of stars, having already represented Kenya with distinction in previous editions of the World Cross Country Championships. An athlete who seems to rise to the occasion after slipping into the squad almost unnoticed, he tends to put in sterling performances when it matters.
Kipyego won the individual silver medal in the junior race at the 2005 World Cross Country in St-Etienne/St-Galmier, France, and the senior bronze medal in Mombasa last year. On both occasions he returned home with a team gold medal.
The second in a family of eight, his name means 'born when it was raining' in his Kalenjin tribe and he attended Kogibor Primary School, where he completed his formative education in 2000. While in Kogibor he used to run as a hobby, while competing in 5000m and 10,000m races, occasionally reaching provincial level.
Unable to continue with his education after finishing primary school, Kipyego stayed out for a year before staring serious training in 2002, inspired by 2003 Rotterdam Marathon and 2005 Seoul Marathon winner William Kiplagat. "Kiplagat had a big role in my starting to take athletics seriously as he was very popular in our area because of his exploits,” Kipyego said.
Spurred by this, Kipyego moved to Chepkorio in 2002, where Global Sports was based, and rented a house nearby. "I moved to Chepkorio, where Global Sports athletes used to train, and I would join them for training every day," he said. A few months later, he did an interview with the camp and, after winning a race organised from Toronmgo to Kamusur, to select athletes, he was signed up. "I was so excited because I had achieved the first part of my goal and I knew that, with hard work, I would make it to the next level,” he said.
In May 2003, he qualified for the 2003 Africa Junior Championships, in Cameroon, after finishing third at the National Trials at Moi International Sports Centre, Kasarani, Nairobi. Representing his country for the first time, Kipyego ran a gallant race in Yaoundé to win bronze in the boys' 10,000m (29:29.09).
In 2004, Kipyego came close to making the national team for the World Cross Country Championships, in Brussels, finishing 10th in the National Championships 8km junior race. A month later, he came in seventh at the trials, held at Ngong racecourse, Nairobi, and was included as a reserve in the team. He travelled to Kigari to traine with the junior team but was left out of the final squad.
Kipyego shrugged off the disappointment by winning the 10,000m (28:46.7) at a track meeting in Eldoret in May. Later that month, he travelled to The Netherlands for his first race abroad, placing fourth in the 5,000m in Nijmegen (13:24.27).
In the Kenyan track trials for the World Junior Championships in Grosseto, Italy, Kipyego again fell short of his goal. Moses Masai and Hosea Macharinyang proved too strong for the then 18-year-old and he finished third (28:29.0)
Kipyego started 2005 determined to finally break through to the national cross country team and succeeded by finish 6th in the trials for the World Cross Country Championships in St-Etienne/St-Galmier. There he stunned everyone by winning silver behind Augustine Choge as Kenya claimed the first four positions to score a perfect 10 and win the junior team title.
Turning his attentions to the track, Kipyego improved his 10,000m PB by clocking an impressive 27:04.45 in Hengelo in May. But, in the trials in Nairobi for the World Championships in Helsinki, he could manage only 10th (28:18.0). His next stop was London, where he came third in the 5,000m at the Norwich Union meet (13:12.47) A week later, he improved his time to 13:09.96 at the Bislett Games, in Oslo, where he finished fifth.
Failing to make the Kenya team for the 2006 World Cross Country Championships in Fukuoka – he finished 19th in the trials – Kipyego returned to Hengelo in May, finishing fourth in his favourite event, the 10,000m (27:19.45). Back in Kenya for the National Championships held in July, he again struggled, placing a distant ninth (28:39.4). The remainder of his track season was unremarkable.
Kipyego began 2007 with a burning mission - to get into the national cross country team and, like most top athletes who missed the National Cross Country Championships in Mombasa, Kiprop gave the dress rehearsal for the Mombasa World Cross a miss to concentrate on the trials. Finishing 4th, he booked his place for the World Cross and, with Kenya hosting the championships, every athlete had added pressure to perform.
Kipyego let nobody down. The 20-year-old ran a brilliant race in the senior ranks, braving the scorching sun and cheered on by thousands who flocked to the venue, to take his individual bronze and team gold. On the track the following summer, he dipped under 27 minutes for the first time at 10,000m (26:59.61) in taking 4th place at the Ivo Van Damme Memorial, in Brussels. "My manager had encouraged me to run under 27 minutes to show capabilities and I trained so hard just to make it happen," he said.
Kipyego began 2008 with a second place finish, behind compatriot Leonard Patrick Komon, at the Elgoibar Cross Country in Spain on 13 January. Seven days later, Kipyego battled hard with Komon before finishing fourth at the Seville Cross Country.
The post election crisis in the country saw several cross-country meets cancelled and Kiprop was among 40 athletes given a wild card to compete at the National Cross Country Championships cum trials in Nairobi on 1 March. Exercising patience, he ran with the pack before injecting a last lap push to finish fifth and slip into the team almost unnoticed - similar to the previous two occasions he had made the team.
Speaking in Kigari, Embu, at the team's training camp, Kipyego said he was confident of improving on his 2007 showing. "This will be my second time in the seniors and I go in with even more experience so I am confident of maybe bettering my performance,” he said. Based on his past two showings at World Cross, few would bet against him.
5000m: 13:09.96 (2005)
10,000m: 26:59.61 (2007)
5000m: 2004 – 13:24.27; 2005 – 13:09.96; 2006 – 13:20.78; 2007 – 13:13.40
10,000m: 2004 - 28:18.94; 2005 - 27:04.45; 2006 – 27:19.45; 2007 – 26:59.61
2003 – 3rd, Africa Junior Championships, 10,000m
2005 – 2nd, World Cross Country Championships (junior)
2007 – 3rd, World Cross Country Championships
Prepared by James Wokabi and Mutwiri Mutuota for the IAAF ‘Focus on Athletes’ project. Copyright IAAF 2008