Updated 12 August 2008
Micah Kemboi KOGO, Kenya (10,000m)
Born: 3 June, 1986, Burnt Forest, Uasin Gaishu District, Rift Valley Province
Lives: Burnt Forest
Coach: Sammy Rono
Manager: Ricky Simms
Camp: Pace Management, Kaptagat
Marital status: Married
Born and raised in an area known for violent political and ethnic instigated violence in Kenya’s scenic Rift Valley, Micah Kogo has managed to carve an escape route from childhood squalor through excelling at athletics. Kogo, like most blessed Kenyan runners, was born into a subsistence farming family background of limited means and, as with so many children in his neighbourhood, he had to run to and from school during his formative education at Kewet Primary School.
It was here that Kogo started building the foundations of a career that has seen him celebrated as a leading 10,000m global runner but is yet to make an impact at major championship level (before the 2008 Beijing Olympics).
“I have yet to carry my good form in Europe and America to major championships and win medals for my country,” he confessed.
“I tend to burn out ahead of major championships and this year I had to make adjustments to my schedule to ensure I gained an Olympic ticket,” Kogo added. At Kewet, Kogo began competing at school competitions, reaching the district levels in the 5000m and 10,000m races. He joined AIC Thulwet Secondary School, where he continued pursuing the sport that had turned from a hobby into serious engagement, and results started coming.
In 2000 and 2001, Kogo reached the National Secondary Schools 5000m and 10,000m finals and, in 2003, his pursuit of a place in Kenya’s junior team for the World Cross Country Championships ended at district level in his last year at Thulwet.
“When I finished school, I started training at Sammy Rono’s camp and, after doing well at the Discovery race in Eldoret, I met my manager,” Kogo recalls. He spent most of 2004 training hard to raise his game. Rono had noted his immense talent at school competitions and, during school breaks, he used to invite him to train in his camp.
In 2005 Kogo had his breakthrough season. A string of honours brought yet another Kenyan distance talent to the attention of a wider world. He won the L'Escalade 8km, finished second at Dunkerque and emerged top at the Chepkoilel cross country events. On the road, Kogo won the Corrida de Houilles 10km, came second at La Provence 10km, and won the Auckland Castle 10km. Successes were also recorded at the track events of Lappeenranta (winner, 13:16.31), Arhaus (second), BMC Final (winner), Castleisland (winner) and Rovereto (second).
In 2006, Kogo defended his L’Escalade 8km title, again finished second in Dunkerque (both cross country) before winning the Corrida de Houilles 10km and Sevenhills 15km titles on the road.
On the track at 5000m, he competed more intensively, with seasonal highlights over 5000m and 10,000m respectively in the DN Galan Super GP, in Stockholm (fourth in 13:00.77) and at the Brussels Golden League meeting, where he won the event in 26:35.63 to become the sixth fastest athlete in history (11th best mark all time).
Consistency on the World Athletics Tour meant he was invited to compete in the World Athletics Final, where he finished sixth (5000m, 13:52.51). In November, Kogo returned to the roads, winning in Nijmegen (15km, 42:42).
In 2007, growing confidence led Kogo to launch a spirited assault on Haile Gebreselassie’s 10km road race World record of 27.02. “I really believed that I could do it because I was in such good form and had prepared well for it,” Kogo recalls. His aim fell just short but, with 27.07, he still clocked the third quickest mark of all time on his way to victory at the Parelloop 10km in Brunssum (Netherlands) on 10 April.
“I was so close, and would have broken that record, but I somehow relaxed in the last few metres.” Kogo said. “The conditions were perfect but I will not give up on it.” Two more road race wins (BUPA Great Manchester Run, 27:21 and 27.56, course record, Corrida de Houilles 10k), second place in Media Blenio and a strong showing in the European cross country season (Amorebieta 1st, Soria 3rd and Llodio 5th) further enhanced his credentials.
Kogo was again also busy on the World Athletics Tour, registering contrasting results, with best performances in DN Galan in Stockholm (seventh, 3000m, 7:38.67 SB) and Athletissima in Lausanne (second, 5000m, 13:10.68 SB).
At the National Trials for the World Championships, in Osaka, Kogo clocked 28:33.7 to miss a slot in the Kenyan 10,000m team but he made amends of sorts by finishing runner-up over 5000m (13:39.91) in his second World Athletics Final appearance.
“The fact that I missed the chance to run for my country made me keen to change my focus in targeting the Beijing Olympics,” Kogo said. “It meant that I had to change my running style to suit that of a championship athlete.
“For championships, there is no pace setter and one has to perfect his own technique and hang close to the leaders before making a move. That is what I wanted to work on before the Olympics trials.”
And so he embarked on his path to Beijing. Following the eruption of post-election violence after disputed December 2007 polls in Kenya, Kogo was holed up abroad training for the task at hand.
He started his season by returning fourth (32.49) in Amorebieta Cross Country before finishing second (27.29) at Parelloop 10km Road Race.
Kogo resumed winning ways in Bloomsday 12km (33.51, course record) and London 10km road races. On the track he was sixth in the Berlin Golden League 5000m.
At the Kenyan Olympic trials, in July, Kogo’s moment came to test his mettle in a star-studded field. With former double African champion, Moses Ndiema Masai, and 2006 World Cross bronze medallist, Martin Mathathi Irungu, taking turns to lead in the latter stages of the 10,000m, Kogo kept in touch.
At the bell, Masai edged forward with Mathathi in hot chase in the tussle for the tape but calmly, Kogo ensured he put respectable distance between himself and the chasing pack to hang on to third.
In the end Masai (28:02.03) and Mathathi (28:03.35) claimed the automatic places while Kogo’s gamble on finishing third (28:08.92) paid off when he was named to the team. “I was going for the win but I was also confident that a top three finish would take me to Beijing,” he said. “When I saw that I was safe, I chose to conserve my energy but now that my first goal has been achieved, I will focus on the next getting an Olympic medal.”
3000m: 7:38.67 (2007)
Two Miles: 8:20.88 (2005)
5000m: 13:00.77 (2006)
10,000m: 26:35.63 (2006)
10km: 27:07 (2007)
15km: 42:42 (2006)
3000m: 2005-7:49.46; 2006-7:44.57; 2007-7:38.67.
5000m: 2005-13:16.31; 2006-13:00.77; 2007-13:10.68; 2008-13:03.71.
10,000m: 2006-26:35.63; 2007-26:58.42; 2008-28:08.92
2006: 6th, World Athletics Final (5000m)
2007: 2nd, World Athletics Final (5000m)
Prepared by James Wokabi and Mutwiri Mutuota for the IAAF ‘Focus on Athletes’ project. Copyright IAAF 2008