Updated 1 May 2008
Michael Kipkorir KIPYEGO, Kenya (3000m Steeplechase)
Born 2 October, 1983, Kemeloi Village, Marakwet district
Height: 168 cm (5' 6"); weight: 59kg
Manager: Jos Hermens
Camp: Global Sports
Born to an athletic family (Christopher Kipyego and younger sister Sally Kipyego are accomplished runners), Michael Kipyego always wanted to be a runner. And when he saw his elder brother Christopher run, the younger Kipyego knew what his vocation was. “I always wanted to be an athlete since my childhood,” he said. “Christopher used to run a lot and that made me want to run to be like him.”
Hailing from Marakwet district, an area that has produced the world’s top steeplechasers, it was only natural that Kipyego would specialise in the race.
“Moses Kiptanui and Patrick Sang are both from Marakwet and they were famous so when I was growing up that it made me want to go and do steeplechase,” he said. “Marakwet is very hilly and this prepares us for steeplechase. Maybe that’s why the area produces so many top athletes.”
He is the sixth born in a family of seven but is not related to 2007 World Cross Country bronze medallist Bernard Kipyego, although though they share a manager. Kipyego joined Kaptiony Primary school and started running while in class seven. As fate would have it, the first camp he attended was by Moses Kiptanui.
The following year, Kipyego made his first attempt at representing Kenya but could only finish sixth in 3000m at the trials. He was, however, selected for World Youth Championships in Bydgoszcz, Poland, where he finished eighth (8:22.17). In 2000, Kipyego joined the famous St Patrick’s Iten (a school that has produced top athletes) and, in the same year, won silver in 5,000m at the East Africa Youth Championships.
In 2001, he won 3,000m Steeplechase at the trials for the Africa Junior Championships but won silver (8:41.26) in Mauritius behind Ezekiel Kemboi.
Having lost his father when he was young, Kipyego could not afford school fees, but his athletics prowess came to his aid as Bro Colm O’Connell paid his school fees.
He made his debut in cross country running in 2002 finishing second behind 2003 World champion Eliud Kipchoge at the trials in Nairobi. He made his debut at the World Cross Country Championships, in Dublin, finishing 12th in the junior men’s race. Back home, Kipyego won the 3,000m Steeplechase at the national junior championships to book a place in Kenya’s World Junior team.
The following month, he won his first and only World title so far by clinching steeplechase gold with 8:21.54 at the World Junior Championships in Kingston, Jamaica. In August, he made his debut in Grand Prix, finishing 11th in Zurich where Brahim Boulami set the then world record. Kipyego timed 8:22.90, “It made me realise just what I could achieve and gave me belief that I could do compete with the best,” he said. This also inspired his younger sister, Sally Kipyego, to take up running and she went on to win the national junior race in 2000 and was eighth at the 2001 World Cross Country Championships. She is currently studying nursing in the US and is a six time winner in the universities competition.
In 2003, Kipyego graduated to the seniors finishing fifth in the men’s 4km race at the national cross country trials to book a place in the national team. He lined up in the senior short race at the World Cross in Lausanne, coming in fourth. At the national trials for the track World Championships in Paris, Kipyego finished third to book his place in the team. But, running in heat one, Kipyego fell at the water hurdle and finished ninth (8:27.45) failing to make the final.
2004 would be a bad year for the upcoming athlete. First he finished 18th at the National Cross Country trials thus missing out on the World Cross Country Championships and a tendon injury hampered his progress, as he ran few races in the summer season, although he ended the year on a high though with the birth of his son on 25 November.
In the national trials for the 2005 World Championships in Helsinki, Kipyego came third behind Kemboi and Brimin Kipruto but was left out of the team in favour of Paul Kipsiele Koech who was having a fantastic season in Europe but had performed poorly at the trials. Kipyego put the disappointment of missing out on the Worlds behind him running his season’s best time of 8:10.66 at the Golden Gala in Rome.
Kipyego started 2006 by attempting to make the national cross country team but missed out narrowly. At the end of a modest track season,Kipyego made his debut at the World Athletics Final in Stuttgart, finishing just outside the podium places in 8:14.99- a seasonal best.
With the 2007 World Cross Country Championships being held in Kenya for the first time, all athletes focused on making the team. Kipyego booked his place with an eighth place finish in the men’s 12k at the national trials and finished sixth in the championship a month later.
At the national trials for the World Championships in Osaka, Kipyego found the going tough coming in fifth (8:29.21) and missing out on a slot. One more race – a fifth place finish at the DN Galan meet in Stockholm - at least yielded his seasonal best time of 8:11.62.
At the national trials for the 2008 Africa Athletics Championships Kipyego came second (8:18.5) behind World bronze medallist Richard Mateelong to book a place in the Addis Ababa bound team.
Kipyego’s career has seen him elevate his family’s status, building his mother a house and paying school fees for his siblings. He also used his earnings to buy his elder brother, Christopher, an air ticket to Mexico for to compete in road races.
This year, Kipyego says his focus is on the Olympics. “I am using Addis Ababa as a stepping stone to Beijing,” he said. “Making the Olympics goal is important to me this year.”
3000m Steeplechase: 8:10.66 (2005)
2001- 8:41.26, 2002 – 8:22.90, 2003 – 8:13.02, 2004 – 8:23.14, 2005 – 8:10.66, 2006 – 8:14.99, 2007 – 8:11.62, 2008 -8:18.5
1999 8th World Youth Championships (3000m)
2001 2nd, Africa Junior Championships (3000m Steeplechase)
2002 12th World Cross Country Championships (junior boys)
1st World Junior Championships (3000m Steeplechase)
2003 4th World Cross Country Championships (short course)
2006 4th World Athletics Final (3000m Steeplechase)
2007 6th World Cross Country Championships (long course)
Prepared by James Wokabi and Mutwiri Mutuota for the IAAF ‘Focus on Athletes’ project. Copyright IAAF 2008