|400 Metres Hurdles||47.79||Beijing (National Stadium)||25 AUG 2015|
|2017||49.70||Doha (Hamad Bin Suhaim)||05 MAY|
|2016||48.01||Paris Saint-Denis (Stade de France)||27 AUG|
|2015||47.79||Beijing (National Stadium)||25 AUG|
|2014||49.03||Marrakech (Le Grande Stade)||12 AUG|
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Compiled 27 July 2016
Nicholas Kiplagat BETT, Kenya (400mH)
Born 27 January 1990 Kisii
Coach: Vincent Mumo
Manager: Jukka Harkonen
Team: Kenya Police
Family: second born in a family of three; twin brother Haron Koech is also a hurdler
On a warm balmy night in Beijing in 2015, Nicholas Bett stunned the world when he became the first Kenyan to win a sprints gold medal at the World Championships.
It was unprecedented and historic and for Bett, provided the pinnacle of a journey started years before.
Hailing from an athletics loving family, Bett’s affection for athletics was influenced early on by his father, who played a key role.
“My dad used to make hurdles for us when we were young using sticks. After coming back from herding cows, he would make us jump them in competition amongst ourselves.”
Despite that early introduction however, Bett, who is a naturally gifted sportsman, tried his hands in several disciplines before going back to his first love.
Together with his twin brother Haron Koech- also a 400m hurdler who is in the Kenya Olympics team for Rio, the duo played in various disciplines especially when at Cheptil High School.
Bett captained his High School to the regional school games and even toyed with joining a local club.
“I used to play right, main strong position in volleyball and I was the captain at Cheptil High School. After finishing high school, I joined the Blue Triangle team, but I saw volleyball is all about teamwork, so if somebody is not in shape, there is nothing you can do, you will all lose.”
He also dabbled in high jump and Decathlon, where he was in rather good company.
“In 2010, I went to the Kenya Junior Trials and won the High Jump, but they did not include any field athletes in the team. I and also competed in the Decathlon with Boniface Mucheru and Ferguson Rotich.”
It was the same year that he tried his luck in both the 110nH and 400H for the world junior team, finishing fifth at the trials in 52.8h seconds for fifth place in the longer distance.
“The selectors did not pick anyone in the 110m Hurdles, only in the 400m Hurdles and that is when I decided to specialise in the 400m Hurdles.
In 2011, he was third in 400m hurdles in 50.39seconds at the National Championships in July, which caught the eye of the Kenya Police recruiting agency.
He went to Kiganjo Police Training College shortly after and passed out in August 2012 meaning he missed out on the entire 2012 track season.
Back in competition, Bett was second at the National Championships in 2013, before finishing second at the trials for the Moscow World Championships where he timed 49.70, but it was not good enough for him to get picked for the Russian event.
The breakthrough came in 2014, when he was selected to represent Kenya for the very first time at the Commonwealth Games, in Glasgow, as well as the African Athletics Championships.
“At the Nationals, I was second behind Mucheru and at the Trials, I was second in 49.75 seconds as Mucheru won again but I qualified for the Commonwealth Games.”
Bett was carrying an injury in Glasgow and crashed out in the heats after finishing fifth in heat one. “When we got there, I had a tendon injury, ran 51.21 in the heats and did not make the semis. Afterwards, we were diverted and told we would go directly to Morocco for the African Championships.”
He more than made up for his disappointment in Marrakech at the African Athletics Championships, winning bronze. He also ran in the 4x400m relay team that won bronze at the continental showpiece.
“I decided to run to my best, if the foot injury will be permanent, so be it. I ran the hurdles and became the bronze medallist in my then PB of 49.03. That is what gave me the morale to train in Hurdles, because if I could run 49.03 with an injury, I believed I could make it to run under 49 if I trained harder.
That performance helped him meet Vincent Mumo who introduced him to his manager.
“I wanted a manager and my coach encouraged me to team up with Juuka.”
His manager organised training for him in December that same year in South Africa and the following year, he was sent to Finland for more training, which would change his running style completely.
“I didn’t know how many strides to take in between the hurdles and such things and the training in South Africa helped me learn a lot. I used to go down on the blocks on my left leg but the coaches switched me to my right because it had more power and helped me get a better start. I also learnt how to calculate; that the first hurdle comes after 22 steps and then 13 in between the strides before taking 14 for the final one.”
Now refined, he made the team for Beijing World Championships after winning the trials.
“We trained for two weeks in Finland with Boniface Mucheru and then we came back for the Trials where I won in 48.29. I saw I was position three in the world rankings at the time and that is when I realised there was hope for the World Championships.”
In China, he qualified to the semis where he almost crashed out after a poor race and only made the final as the slowest of the eight participants.
“I ran 48.37 to win my heat but in the semis, I was in lane 4 and I ran 48.54, where I missed about five hurdles because I didn’t maintain the strides between the hurdles. But having made the final, I promised myself to rectify the mistakes and focus on the final.”
Drawn in lane nine, Bett prepared for the race of his life in the final.
“It did not matter whether I was placed; in the inside or outermost lane, I must run the full distance like everyone else. When we got to the 200m curve, everyone was still in it and when I looked up and saw I was the first to land after the final hurdle; it gave me a lot of energy to go for it.”
Bett stopped the clock in a new personal best and national record of 47.79 seconds, as well as making history as the first man to win a sprints gold for Kenya at the world stage.
“I was more shocked to run a time I never thought I would make in my life and from there, my life changed. I have been able to do things for my family like building a house, buying a tractor and investing.”
2016 has not been as smooth sailing as Bett would have liked. He started with a sixth place finish at the Shanghai Diamond League with a time of 49.31 seconds in May. He followed it with eighth in Eugene (51.33), sixth in Oslo (49.85) and fifth in Stockholm (51.14)
Off the track, he has had to deal with family matters that included taking care of his ailing child that saw him miss out on the African Athletics Championships as well as being excused from the trials and handed a wildcard instead.
“My child is better now and is out of hospital so I can now concentrate on preparing for the Olympics. It’s been tough, but he is okay now and I am looking forward to Rio.”
He will be in good company as his brother won bronze at the African Championships in Durban in addition to having reached the semifinals at the World Championships last year.
“We train together and are under the same coach and manager. We are always talking and encouraging each other because we both want the other to succeed.”
400mH: 47.79 (2015)
400mH: 2010- 53.11A (52.8hA); 2011- 50.39A; 2012- 54.7h; 2013- 49.70A; 2014- 49.03 4; 2015-47.79 NR; 2016-49.31
2010 5th Kenyan Trials for World Juniors, Nairobi (400mH) 52.8hA
2011 3rd Kenyan Championships, Nairobi (400mH) 50.39A
2013 2nd Kenyan Championships, Nairobi (400mH) 49. 90A
2013 2nd Kenyan Trials for World Championships, Nairobi (400mH) 49. 70A
2013 2nd Kenyan Trials for World Championships, Nairobi (400mH) 49. 70A
2014 2nd Kenyan Trials for Commonwealth Games, Nairobi (400mH) 49. 75A
2014 5h1 Commonwealth Games, Glasgow (400mH) 51.21
2014 3rd African Athletics Championships, Marrakech (400mH) 49.03
2014 3rd African Athletics Championships, Marrakech (4x400m) 3:07.35
2015 2nd Kenyan Championships, Nairobi (400mH) 49. 09A
2015 1st Kenyan Trials for World Championships, Nairobi (400mH) 48. 29A
2015 1st World Championships, Beijing (400mH) 47.79
Prepared by James Wokabi and Mutwiri Mutuota for the IAAF ‘Focus on Athletes’ project. Copyright IAAF 2016