Updated 4 March 2008
Daniel Kipchirchir KOMEN, Kenya (1500m)
Born: 27 Nov. 1984, Chemorgong, Sirwa Division, Koibatek Dist., Rift Valley Prov., Kenya.
Lives mainly in Chemorgong. Training base: IAAF High Altitude Training Centre, Eldoret.
Manager: Golazo Sports.
1.75m / 50kg. Native language: Lembus (Kalenjin). Sixth of nine children. Father a farmer with 21 acres. Older brother ran competitively in primary school.
Completed Timboroa High School 2003.
Daniel Kipchirchir Komen competed casually in primary school, though he ran 2 km to and from school four times a day. Prompted to run in high school by bullying prefects who forced all boarders, especially those in Form 1, out for morning runs, he ran hard to avoid the prefects’ harassment and found he had talent.
Inspired by the achievement of Noah Ngeny at the Sydney Olympics (1500m gold medal), Komen began training and reached provincial level in schools competition in Forms 1 and 2 in both 1500m and steeplechase, finishing just behind current internationals Mike Kipyego and Brimin Kipruto. But he missed most of Form 3 for lack of school fees. Without competition, he neglected his running.
Resuming classes and training in Form 4, Komen finished 5th in national schools cross country. He was invited to join a select school holiday training camp at St. Patrick’s High School, Iten, where he met Coach Ngure of the IAAF High Altitude Training Camp. Back at school, he persuaded the headmaster to allow him to enter trials for 2003 African Junior Championships. He finished 2nd at 5000m (13:57) behind Bernard Chepkok and earned a trip to Cameroon, where he was again 2nd (13:49.26), this time behind Uganda’s future Commonwealth 10,000 champion Boniface Kiprop.
Invited to join IAAF High Altitude Training Centre by Coach Ngure, Komen signed with British manager Christopher Gower early in 2004 and ran nine races that summer in Canada and Europe over 1500 and 5000. Highlights were a PB victory at 1500 (3:34.66) in Liege in early August and another PB over 5000 (13:16.26 for 3rd) a month later in Rovereto.
Hoping for access to bigger GP races, Komen switched managers in January 2005. He emerged as major talent on the European indoor circuit with four wins and a 2nd in five major races at 1500 and 3000 (including indoor PBs 3:33.08 in Karlsruhe and 7:53.89 in Athens). Outdoors, the wins continued: Doha (3:30.77 PB), Hengelo (7:31.98 PB), Seville (3:31.46), Paris (3:30.01 PB) and a decisive victory in Kenya’s World Championships trials (3:36.75). He slipped somewhat in his next two races, being outkicked in Rome (3:30.37) by Bahrain’s Rashid Ramzi and in Oslo (3:48.49 for 1 mile) by Bernard Lagat and newly minted Qatari Dahame Najem Bashir (formerly David Nyaga of Kenya).
Going into the Helsinki World Championships, however, in the absence of the 1500’s two recently dominant figures, Hicham El Guerrouj and Lagat, Komen was among the favourites. Unfortunately, he ran cautiously in his heat and was caught in a blanket finish (the first six crossed the line within 0.27 sec. of each other). Five qualified automatically for the semi-final; Komen was 6th and out.
Komen exacted some revenge by defeating two of the Helsinki medallists and nearly all of the finalists as he won the three big Golden League races that followed the World Championships—Zurich (3:30.49), Brussels (3:31.13) and Berlin (3:29.72—the second fastest mark of 2005). But with big money on the line at the World Athletics Final, in Monaco, he again ran cautiously and was again caught in a blanket finish; five crossed the line in 0.22sec., with Komen 5th.
In 2006 Komen showed he had learned something, though perhaps not enough, from these losses. Undefeated in three indoor appearances, he entered the Moscow World Indoor Championships ranked 1st at 1500 by the IAAF. He took the lead in the final and jogged through the first 800 before cranking up the tempo. He seemed not to have realised that Ukrainian Ivan Heshko had moved into second position. Known for his last-lap acceleration, Heshko blasted past with 100 metres to go and took the gold (3:42.08); Komen settled for silver (3:42.55).
Outdoors, he competed in six GPs and made the podium four times, including a big win in Rome in the year’s fastest time (PB 3:29.02), defeating, among others, Heshko and double world champ Rashid Ramzi. But in the unrabbited World Athletics Final, he again got lost in the scramble (3:34.77 for 10th).
Komen began the 2007 outdoor season with a superb early win in the Prefontaine mile (PB 3:48.28), beating Lagat and Kenyan teammates Shadrack Korir and Eliud Kipchoge. He also ran well in Athens (2nd in 3:32.44), and qualified for the Kenyan World Championships team with a comfortable 3rd in the trials (3:36.4 at 1700m altitude). But, in Osaka, he barely advanced out of his heat and then was tripped up on the home stretch of his semi-final, jogging in a dismal 10th. The disappointment seemed to motivate him. Twelve days later, in Zurich, he finished a creditable 3rd in the unpaced 1500, and from then on was unbeatable, winning Brussels, Berlin, Shanghai (3:31.75) and the unrabbited World Athletics Final (3:37.96), and earning No. 1 world ranking from Track & Field News.
In 2008 he warmed up for the World Indoor Championship in Valencia with three races in mid-February: a 3000 in Valencia (4th in 7:38.58), and two 1500s. In Athens he won comfortably in the season’s best time, 3:34.80, beating team-mate Suleiman Simotwo, and in Birmingham he finished second ahead of a quality field, losing only to Lagat, who will not be competing in Valencia. So once again Komen comes into a major championship as one of the favourites and has another chance to show that he has finally learned how to cope with unpaced races.
The name Kipchirchir means born in the midst of a rush or commotion. Daniel is no relation either to sometime teammate Alex Kipchirchir or to multiple world record setter Daniel Kipngetich Komen.
Komen’s native district Koibatek, formerly part of Baringo District, lies at the junction of the territories of four Kalenjin subgroups—the Tugen, the Nandi, the Kipsigis and the Keiyo. Many residents are of mixed ancestry and speak a dialect that combines elements of the four. Komen’s grandparents on both sides hail from Nandi.
1500m: 3:29.02 (2006)
One Mile: 3:48.28 (2007)
3000m: 7:31.98 (2005)
5000m: 13:16.26 (2004)
1500/ 3000/ 5000: 2003: --/--/13:49.26; 2004: 3:34.66/--/13:16.26; 2005: 3:29.72 / 7:31.98/--; 2006: 3:29.02/--/--; 2007: 3:31.75/ 7:37.47i/--; 2008: 3:34.80i/7:38.51i.
2005: 6th - World Athletics Final (1500)
2006: 2nd – World Indoor Championships (1500)
2006 10th – World Athletics Final (1500)
2007: 1st – World Athletics Final (1500)
Prepared by John Manners for the IAAF ‘Focus on Athletes’ project. Copyright IAAF 2008.