14 SEP 2008 General News 14 September 2008 – Stuttgart, Germany

Kipsiele Koech sets his goals for ‘09: Sub-8, World title and possibly World record

Paul Kipsiele Koech front-runs his way to a win in the 3000m steeplechase (Getty Images)Paul Kipsiele Koech front-runs his way to a win in the 3000m steeplechase (Getty Images) © Copyright

Stuttgart, GermanyPaul Kipsiele Koech continued an amazing win streak in Sunday’s 3000m Steeplechase race at the IAAF / VTB Bank World Athletics Final in Stuttgart. He won the event, which often is a tough and highly contested one, for the fourth time in a row. And the 26-year-old Kenyan did it in style with a great piece of frontrunning.

Leading from early in the race he finished in 8:05.35 and put almost ten seconds between him and second placed fellow-Kenyan Ezekiel Kemboi (8:15.32), one of the best performances of the two-day event.

And it could have been even better had it been warmer.

“I had hoped to finally break eight minutes today,” said Kipsiele Koech, who had first broken the eight minute-barrier back in 2004 and then did so every year since with the exception of this season. With his personal best of 7:56.37 minutes in 2005 he is the fifth fastest ever. “And I was prepared for this. But it was getting too hard to run without pacemakers and in the cool weather. I am not used to those conditions. I did go out fast because I did not want the race to become slow, because in a sprint everyone can win.”

It was in Heusden, Belgium, where Kipsiele Koech had missed the eight minute mark by just a fraction. He clocked 8:00.57 which remains as the world lead.

“Always when I was going for a sub-eight minute time this season I was unlucky with the weather. It rained in Heusden, then again in Brussels last week and now it was very cold in Stuttgart,” said Kipsiele Koech, who had been additionally unlucky at the Kenyan Olympic trials, when he finished fourth and just missed qualifying for the Games in Beijing. That race in Nairobi remained the only loss of an otherwise great season.

Eager to face a fit Shaheen

“I am still disappointed that I could not run in the Olympic Games,” said the Kenyan, who is desperate to reach the goals he missed this year in 2009. “It is my big aim to finally win a global title. I hope to be able to do that at the World Championships next year.”

Asked about the possibility of the return of the World record holder Saif Saaeed Shaheen (Qatar/7:53.63) in 2009 he said: “I hope that he will be back in 2009, because I want to race against him.” Could he beat Shaheen if the World record holder is at his best? “It will all depend on how my training will go for next year. But yes, everyone is beatable.”

The other big goal for 2009 is getting back to times of sub-eight minutes. “I want to run faster than this year again and possibly go for the World record,” said Koech, who was brought up and still lives in the small village of Sotik in the southern area of Kenya’s Great Rift Valley. He is the youngest of eight sons and his parents are farmers. But in contrast to many Kenyan elite runners Kipsiele Koech did not have to run to school because that was very near to where he lived. “I started running at primary school and then it was more or less a natural development that I became a steeplechaser,” said the 2004 Olympic bronze medallist, who said he had no running idols when he was young.

Inspires, assists and coaches locals

It is different with himself now. In the Sotik area Kipsiele Koech is the only runner who has had international success. So a lot of young athletes look up to him and he tries to inspire and to help them.

“I regularly talk to young children of our area and try to encourage them to run and to go to school.” Kipsiele Koech helps in other ways as well, paying the school fees for 10 local children.

He trains in the area where he lives and is joined by up to 20 local runners. “Although there are no strong international athletes it is a good group. I can train very well with them,” he answered when asked if he would miss training partners of international calibre. Kipsiele Koech also looks after the training of several young athletes from his area. And he has already had some success as a coach as well: Jackline Chebii is among the group of his runners. The 15-year-old has a personal best of 9:04.4 at 3000m and qualified for the World Junior Championships in Bydgoszcz, Poland, where she was fifth in the final this year. Additionally she was sixth in the junior race at the World Cross Country Championships in Edinburgh in March.

Jörg Wenig for the IAAF