2010 World Half Marathon champion Wilson Kiprop (Getty Images) © Copyright
Wilson KIPROP (5000m, 10,000m, Cross Country, 10km, Half Marathon, Marathon)
Born 14 July, 1987, Soi, Uasin Gishu District
Height: 175 cm (5' 9"); Weight: 60 kg
Manager: Gianni Demadonna
Coach: Gabriele Rosa/Renato Canova
Marital status: single
Family: First born in seven
Wilson Kiprop’s is a moving story of how the sport of athletics has lifted an individual who had many odds stuck against him into a worthy member of society.
With nothing on him to give him a foothold in life apart from his blessed legs, the eloquent Kiprop is out to take full advantage of his God-given talent as he seeks to emulate his idol - Ethiopian legend Haile Gebrselassie.
As the first born in a family of humble means that eventually broke up, it was left to Kiprop, who celebrated his 23rd birthday by being named in his nation’s team for 2010 African Athletics Championships, to be the sole breadwinner, a task he has taken on with gusto.
“Life was a bit hard for me when growing up since we had many problems,” he offers in a matter-of-fact way that efficiently marks the bitterness within when interviewed by FoA. “There was a big problem between my parents, they never had good relations until when they broke up and dad married another woman and left us.
“We could not sustain ourselves and my mother had issues raising my school fees and I had to go out there and look for a job,” added the versatile competitor who targets being a master in multiple distances.
Kiprop was enrolled at Kaptebengwet Primary School in his native Soi Location for his formative education before joining the secondary wing of the same until he was forced out in 2005.
The institution was located some 7km away from his home and he would take to his heels to make school in time. This routine saw him take up the sport when the opportunity arose to compete for Kaptebengwet.
“I started running in primary school and I chose to compete in 10,000m for them in 1998 since I had gained endurance due to the fact my home was far,” he explains. “I did well but since our school was not registered at the Districts, I used my neighbouring school that entered me in their team and ran up to the provincial levels.”
After his parents’ separation and having left school, Kiprop travelled to Eldoret to seek manual jobs and was hired as a casual labourer at a construction site within the town.
“Even then, I never stopped training. I would wake up at 5:30 a.m. and train for two hours before reporting to work at 8 a.m. We would work until 1 p.m., take a break and resume at 2 p.m. until 4 p.m. when I would take a short rest and go jogging,” he narrates.
His pay for the ardours tasks allocated to him at the site was a miserly Ksh120 ($1.5) per day but upon the finalisation of the building months later, Kiprop found himself jobless.
“I decided not to go back home. One of those in charge at the site (Dominic Kipleting) saw my potential as a runner and accommodated me in his house from where I continued with my training.”
In early 2007, Kipleting gave him some money to enter an Athletics Kenya (AK) meeting in Kisumu where he competed over 10,000m and finished ninth.
“The reason why this race is special to me is because that was the first time I entered the (local) papers when my name was among the published results. That motivated me so much and gave the heart that I could do something,” he explained.
After failing to qualify for the All Africa Games, Kiprop travelled to Nairobi where he had been promised connection to a manager who would facilitate his travel to New Delhi, India to compete.
“When I arrived there, I went to Ngong and started training with individual runners while living at a one-roomed house. All the time, I was looking forward to travel to India but it turned out I was conned when this plan failed.”
He had left Eldoret with Ksh2,000 ($25) and after a week’s stay in Kenya’s capital, he had only Ksh200 ($2.5) left on him when he decided to find means to Eldoret for the 2nd AK Weekend Cross Country Meeting (10 November).
“I had heard them announce it on the radio and I borrowed some money from those we were training with to raise the full fare (about Ksh500/$6.25). There, I won Ksh15,000 ($187.5) for finishing fourth and had that not happened, I would not have even afforded my way home,” he recalls.
After featuring in another two events, including one in Baraton, Eldoret, where he won a grade cow worth Ksh100,000 ($1,250), the 2 December Tuskys Wareng Cross Country meeting in the same town opened new frontiers for him.
Italian manager Gianni Demadonna is keenly involved with organisation of the event and the talent of Kiprop came to his notice after finishing fourth there.
“When he inquired about me, I gave him all newspaper cuttings that had my name since I made sure I kept each and every one of them. He was impressed and we agreed to work together,” Kiprop states the turning point of his career.
Although he failed to crack into his country’s national team in the ensuing 2008 and 2009 seasons, Kiprop nonetheless posted performances on the international circuit that underlined his potential.
His 2008 started on the European cross country races with a win in Val Lagarina, Italy, then he took to road races and his highlight was finishing second (43:50) over 15km in Puy-en-Velay, France (1 May).
In 2009, Kiprop returned to the Val Lagarina cross, retaining his title, and continued to shine in the Italian road races, with a second place in San Geminiano, Modena (31 January) and victory in Sant’Agata, Catania (3 February).
He then made his debut in the European indoor circuit with a convincing 13:30.13 for fourth place in Düsseldorf (13 February) and followed this up just two days later with victory in the Eurocross in Diekirch.
Kiprop also recorded his 10km top time of 28:20 in Vattenfall, Berlin, on 5 April and on 24 April, a second finish in the Massamagrell race in Spain yielded his 15km PB of 42.51.
Kiprop also chalked 20.756km in the One Hour Race (longest distance you can run in 60min) at the Hengelo Grand Prix (1 June), where he finished third in a race of four starters won by his idol, Gebrselassie with 20.882km.
After failing to qualify for the Kenyan Trials for the Berlin World Championships later that month, Kiprop embarked on training for a full marathon debut in Toronto, Canada, in a punishing regime that involved 35km runs.
However, that ambition was nipped in the bud when he injured himself on a stone during one of his long runs and had to sit out until January this year when he resumed training.
In March, he won the Paris Half Marathon in 61.26 (7 March) before finally making his maiden 42km appearance at the Prague Marathon, where he clocked 2:09:09 for fifth (9 May).
“I rested for a week then began training, but after the first ten days, I experienced some problems. It was then I recalled I could run 10,000m, and with the African Championships coming here, I decided to go for a place in the national team.”
On 26 June, Kiprop sealed his place in the Kenyan team for the continental championships after running an astonishing 27:26.93 (ranked 11th in the world as at July 22) victory in altitude in the men’s 10,000m, lowering the soil record set last year by Sammy Kitwara (27:44.26) at Nyayo National Stadium.
Such was the frenetic pace of the race that all top nine finishers beat the old record. Geoffrey Mutai (27:27.59) was second, with former Africa double junior champion, Matthew Kisorio (27:28.13) third.
“I will try all the best I can to run even faster during the event,” he said at the time on his expectations for the biennial championships that will be hosted for the first time in his country.
His rise in the sport has seen him sustain his siblings in school, where he is educating his younger brother and two sisters. “Before I set up my own family, I want to ensure that my mother’s is on a solid footing. I have established some farming projects that help supplement my income from athletics and thanks to the grade cow I won, I also engage in dairy farming that is profitable.”
“My hope after Nairobi 2010 is to qualify for the Continental Cup (Split, 4-5 September) and the Commonwealth Games. Overall, my aim is to emulate Gebrselassie who held World records, that’s why I’m following in his footsteps of competing in many distances,” Kiprop stated before the continental championships.
At the event, Kiprop entered his country’s athletics folklore when the gifted runner gave Kenya her first gold medal on the opening day of the championships as Nyayo National Stadium erupted into rapturous applause.
He fended off the spirited challenge of 2006 African champion, Uganda’s Moses Kipsiro (27:33.37) to pocket the top medal in 27:32.91. Teammate Geoffrey Mutai (27:33.83) came in for the third medal.
“We are happy to get the two medals. We trained hard for this and personally, I’m delighted to be the one who won gold but it was a wonderful team effort. The fans heeded our call to give us support and their cheering motivated us.
“I do not think I will seek to compete for Kenya on the track again. I will focus on the road and perhaps, make the marathon squad for next year’s World Championships,” Kiprop said at the finish.
On 4 September in the French city of Lille, the in-form Kiprop raced to the sixth quickest half marathon performance of the year when he won the race in a briskly 59:39, chalking almost a minute off his previous career best over 21km.
This performance was enough to convince selectors to give him a ticket for the World Half Marathon championships in Nanning, China.
10,000m: 27:26.93 (2010)
10 km: 28:20 (2009)
15 km: 42:51 (2009)
One Hour: 20.756km (2009)
Half Marathon: 59:39 (2010)
30 km: 1:29:43 (2010)
Marathon: 2:09:09 (2010)
2010 1st Paris Half Marathon
2010 1st Kenya Athletics Championships (10,000m)
2010 1st Africa Athletics Championships (10,000m)
2010 1st Lille Half Marathon
Prepared by James Wokabi and Mutwiri Mutuota for the IAAF ‘Focus on Athletes’ project. Copyright IAAF 2010
- 2010 World Half Marathon champion Wilson Kiprop (Getty Images) © Copyright
- The men's podium in Nanning - silver medallist Zersenay Tadese (ERI), winner Wilson Kiprop (KEN) and bronze medallist Sammy Kitwara (KEN) (Getty Images) © Copyright
- Wilson Kiprop ends Zersenay Tadese's reign in Nanning (Getty Images) © Copyright