Timothy Kiptanui Too (kipTAHnooee Toh), Kenya (1500m)
Born 5 January 1980, Kakiptui, near Kabiyet, Nandi District, Rift Valley Province, Kenya.
Lives in Nandi Hills, nr. Kapsabet, Nandi Dist. Based in Verona, Italy, during track season.
Manager: Gianni Demadonna. Coach: Francis Songol.
Native language: Nandi (Kalenjin). Second of four children of father’s second of two wives. Parents deceased; father a civil servant (District Officer), farmer with 58 acres.
Finished secondary school at Nanyuki High School, 1999.
Began running 400m in primary school. Added 400m hurdles and 800m in secondary, when he transferred from local day school to boarding school in Nanyuki, 200 km from home. (A family friend persuaded the Nanyuki headmaster to bring Kiptanui in as an athlete.) Stopped running for a year after school while trying to establish a small milk transport business with dairy farms near Kakiptui. Business failed and he began training on his own in 2001. Was allowed to run as a guest in a couple of local schools meets and began training with a school team. Continued racing as guest, even at 2001 National Junior trials, where he clocked 52.0 for 400m hurdles.
Moved to Nandi Hills in autumn of 2001 to join training group headed by former 3:48.80 miler Willy Kemei. Group was training for marathon. Kiptanui, until then a 400/800 man, injured himself on a 35 km training run and rested for three months. Early in 2002 joined middle-distance training group headed by Wilfred Bungei and in May recorded 3:45.3 for 1500 at altitude of 2000m, then 3:42.7 as guest in National Juniors.
In spring of 2003 ran in five Athletics Kenya weekend meetings, winning two and finishing no lower than 4th (best time 3:41.14). On Bungei’s recommendation, he was signed by manager Demadonna and taken to Europe for two months, often running as pacemaker, but winning two small races and taking 3rd in Milan GP in 3:34.07. Returned to Kenya for World Championships trials but, like training partner Bungei, fell ill on eve of meet and did not run. Returned to Europe for a few races in August, and to South Korea for one in September, but felt weak.
Rested at home for a month then began training on his own for the indoor season. Ran as pacemaker in five European races (including Kenenisa Bekele’s 5000m WR in Birmingham), returned home resolving to give up pacing and focus on winning. Began his GP season with 5th in Hengelo (PB 3:33.80), 3rd in Ostrava (PB 3:33.34, beating Bernard Lagat) and 4th at Bislett (3:34.65) then returned home to take a surprise 3rd in Kenya Olympic trials (3:36.0) ahead of World Indoor Champion Paul Korir.
Back to Europe for two more GPs, and two more PBs (3rd Iraklio 3:32.57 and 2nd Paris 3:30.04), before Athens. There, after a confident last-lap surge to qualify comfortably in his semi-final, Kiptanui tried the same tactic in the final, starting a late sprint on the last back straight, when he was badly balked by eventual bronze medalist Rui Silva. Kiptanui held on for 4th (3:35.61). A win over six of his fellow Olympic finalists in Brussels (3:30.24) was some comfort, as was a close 3rd in Berlin (3:32.65) behind Korir and Alex Kipchirchir, again besting six Athens finalists.
Yearly progression: 2002 – 3:42.7; 2003 – 3:34.07; 2004 – 3:30.04. Other PBs: 800m - 1:44.49 (2004); 1000m - 2:16.19 (2003)
Kiptanui’s breakthrough this year followed his realization in the spring that unless he took charge of his career, he could end up doing nothing but pacemaking. “I know some guys in Kenya who are full-time pacemakers,” he says. “I’ve always wanted to be a champion.” He asked his sometime training partner Wilfred Bungei to put in a word with their manager, Gianni Demadonna, and the result was a series of six Grand Prix races in which Kiptanui finished no lower than 5th and no slower than 3:34.65, recording four PBs in quick succession. Along the way he took a clutch 3rd in the Kenya trials and a frustrating but creditable 4th in the Athens Olympic final.
Kiptanui’s grandfather acquired the nickname Swara (antelope) because he used to hunt antelope by chasing them until they collapsed from exhaustion. Kiptanui has inherited the nickname and uses it in his email address.