Created 24 July 2012
Nixon Kiplimo CHEPSEBA, Kenya (1500m)
Born: 12 December, 1990, Cherepes Village, Kerio Valley, Rift Valley
Coach: Patrick Sang
Manager: Michel Boeting
Team: Kenya Police
A Samsung Diamond League Trophy in 2011 and two sub 3:30 performances in 2012 have seen Nixon Kiplimo Chepseba throw his name in the ring as one of the medal favourites at the London Olympic Games.
The lanky athlete is the youngest member of an imperious trio of Kenyan 1500 metres runners who between them have won every title on offer in the world in the last three years and are a safe bet for the first podium sweep of the race in the history of the Games. World and Olympic champion Asbel Kiprop and Commonwealth Games title holder Silas Kiplagat are the other two, as Kenya seeks to produce a fifth Olympic winner of this most prestigious of races.
For Chepseba, the London Game are even more special after he was included then dropped from the World Athletics Championships team last year.
Having showcased his latent talent last season, where he was the number one metric miler as the countdown to the Daegu Worlds tolled, personal tragedy derailed what was to be his ascendancy to the top when he lost his mother.
“I was really in shape in 2011. After I had done my first two Diamond League races, I had a problem. My mother passed away and from there, I was the one preparing the burial for two weeks.
“On my return to Oslo and my shape was down after missing training. It is very hot in Tambach, where we live, and training was not possible,” he says with pain in his eyes.
After Oslo, Chepseba narrated, he embarked on making up for lost time that saw him over-stretch himself in training and as a result, he missed the Daegu ticket at the Kenyan Trials.
“I was exhausted when we ran the final and I was disappointed and unfortunately, it was not my time and my time will come. I felt sad after being withdrawn from the team,” he rued after Athletics Kenya (AK) who had initially granted him the wildcard for the Worlds, revoked their decision and sent Daniel Kipchirchir Komen instead.
Born on December 12 1990, the tall, dark and shy Chepseba is yet another inspiring story among many in the vast Kenyan Rift Valley that have used talented legs to make the flight from poverty, having been born to a homestead that had 18 siblings.
“My father married three wives and I’m the fourth born to my mother,” he narrates while relaxing in the lawn at the training camp that he shares with, among others, London Marathon 2011 winner, Emmanuel Mutai, 2009 World Half Marathon silver winner, Bernard Kipyego and namesake Mike Kipyego, the 2008 African Championships 3000m steeplechase silver winner turned marathoner.
Like most young boys from the rural areas, he spent most of his young life herding his family’s cattle and while they were grazing, he would fend off the monkeys found in Kerio Valley. His father often gave him challenges like sending him to the shops and asking to come back before spit on a leaf had dried up.
He also recalls his father sending him to enter a race when he was 13 and though he cannot recall what position he came in, he won a bucket.
“I started running seriously when I joined Form 1. In primary school, I used to run but it was very hot in the valley and you could not train but I managed to get to the Districts in 10,000m.”
“When I joined St Patrick’s and started being coached by Brother Colm, I changed to 1500m after he noticed I would start the 10,000m very fast then tire at the end. At first, I started running 3000m but eventually settled at 1500,” the runner who fed off the nectar of the famed Patrician brother coach until 2009 when he left the institution added.
In February 2007, he met his manager Michel Boeting at a High School Cross Country meet which he won and his school won the a trip to compete at the National High School X-Country Championships in USA.
A week after the race, he told Boeting that he wanted to compete at the National Cross Country trials and though he finished 48th in the junior 8km, he won over the heart of his would-be manager. When Boeting started his own management outfit, Chepseba was one of the first athletes to join him.
“When I started my company in 2008 Nixon was in Form 3 and still had two years to go. We decided he would finish school and try to make the World Juniors team in 2008 and also the African Juniors
In 2009, he won silver at the African Junior Championships, in Mauritius, on his first outing in Kenyan colours in 3:37.63. Chepseba followed it up with two wins in Antwerp (3:39.14) and Dubnica (a personal best in 1000m of 2:18.61).
Chepseba started making waves in the 2010 campaign, where he strung a number of impressive performances, notably his 3:32.42 season’s best in Rieti (29 August) that was ranked number 12 on the world list after a fifth finish at the Nationals saw him miss selection to the African Athletics Championships that his nation hosted.
With the World Championships in the horizon at the turn of 2011, the Cherepes Village, Keiyo Valley born athlete pieced together a string of imposing performances that saw him earn recognition as one to watch in the global Metric Mile circuit.
A winning sequence of six straight victories early in the season, highlighted by his 3:34.63 (number 4 world list) indoor personal best at the Düsseldorf meet in Germany, as well as the opening two Samsung Diamond League events in Doha (3:31.84) and Shanghai (3:31.42) outdoors served adequate notice of his arrival.
His hot streak was snapped in June during the Bislett Games in Oslo, where he finished sixth in the Mile race with the clock reading 3:53.36 that was still a career best at the distance.
Chepseba again placed fifth at the Nationals in July missing a Daegu Worlds ticket in controversial fashion after he was at first granted wildcard entry courtesy of his effort in Shanghai, that was the then a world lead, before AK rescinded the decision a week later and demoted him to the All Africa Games squad.
“I was sad after being dropped, but I told myself that after all it was not my chance in the first place, because I was fifth, so I said no problem and decided to focus on Diamond League.”
He declined to accept the chance to compete for his nation in Maputo to focus on clinching what would be his first Samsung Diamond League title after a second finish in Monaco (3:31.74/22 July) and sixth in Stockholm (3:35.83) placed him in a three way tie for the crown with Olympics and Worlds titleholder Asbel Kiprop and Worlds silver winner Silas Kiplagat ahead of the Zürich final.
At the Weltklasse Meet, Chepseba pulled away from the Daegu medallists and came home in 3:32.74 to bag the consolation Diamond Trophy and the $40,000 (Sh3.2m) jackpot as Kiprop and Kiplagat chocked in his slipstream.
“Winning the Diamond League changed my life, since it made me come back to normal like the other people, because after all, I’m the same with the guys that went to the World Championships.
I wanted to confirm to them I was not left outside because I was not in shape,” the lanky runner charged.
Having placed himself at the pedestal, Chepseba rounded his season in victory with a blistering 3:30.94 career best, in Zagreb on 13 September, that was ranked number three for 2011.
In 2012, he was out to join the illustrious class of the revered legend Kipchoge Keino (1968), Peter Rono (1988), Noah Ngeny (2000) and Kiprop as an Olympics 1500m gold medallist from his country.
“The Trials will be very tough and it will depend on who is in shape. The six or so guys in the country in the moment are tough; I have to focus and train well so I will make it, if it is your time, it is your time and if I’m beaten, it’s okay. I like front running because I have no finishing kick and this is what I want to work on,” said Chepseba back in February.
He started the Olympic season with several indoor races, including wins in Düsseldorf (3:35.53) and Birmingham (3:34.70), before kicking off his outdoor season with a fourth-place finish in Doha in 3:31.32.
An 800 metres seasonal best time of 1:48.97 followed, in Ostrava on 25 May, and two days later, he dipped under the 3:30 minute barrier for the first time as he clocked 3:29.90 to win in Hengelo.
Then it was back home for the Kenyan trials. The 1500 metres race was the most anticipated race of the championships, with World and Olympic champion Asbel Kiprop and Commonwealth Games winner Silas Kiplagat also present.
Chepseba stayed true to his running from the front style, finishing second (3:38.0) to nail his berth for a place in London.
Assured of a place in London, the lanky Chepseba further lowered his personal best in Monaco on 20 July, clocking 3:29.77 behind Kiprop, who timed an astonishing 3:28.88.
“We are going for the 1-2-3 in London and once we are in that position, the place I shall take in the podium is in the hands of God,” the runner who is bristling with confidence assuaged while sitting next to his teammate, Kiprop who agreed, “That is what we want to achieve in London.”
Such is the dominance of Kenya in 1500 metres race that a first podium sweep in the history of the games looks a distinct possibility.
Chepseba credits his manager, Michel Boeting, for giving him the chance to forge his career.
“I met my manager in form two and he assisted me in many ways like paying my school fees that was a problem and other things. He told me to focus on running and this helped me to grow in the sport.”
He delivered a tacit warning to his metric mile rivals ahead of the Olympics season.
“This year, the one to watch out is me. I’m not afraid of anybody since I’m here training for 24 hours and I’m confident my time has come.”
Chepseba is married to Mercy Kosgei, the 2006 World Juniors (1500m) and 2007 World Cross Championships junior silver winner and their daughter Bilha joined the family on 18 November last year.
“We are happy with her and she has added more purpose to our lives,” said the man who was inspired by former World record holder, Paul Tergat.
800m: 1:46.82 (2011)
1500m: 3:29.77 (2012)
One Mile: 3:53.36 (2011)
800m: 2011- 1:46.82. 2012- 1:48.97
1500m: 2009-3:37.2; 2010-3:32.42; 2011- 3:30.94; 2012- 3:29.77
2009 2nd Africa Junior Athletics Championships (1500m)
2010 5th National Championships (1500m)
2011 5th National Championships (1500m)
2011 1st Samsung Diamond League (1500m)
2012 2nd Kenya Olympic Trials (1500m)
Prepared by James Wokabi and Mutwiri Mutuota for the IAAF ‘Focus on Athletes’ project. Copyright IAAF 2012