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Cherono and Talel two to watch for in Vilamoura

Cherono and Talel the two to watch in Vilamoura
Jürg Wirz for IAAF

At last year’s World Cross Country Championships, Patrick Ivuti was the big surprise when he was challenging Paul Tergat and winning the silver medal in Belfast. Ivuti, as a junior 9th in 1996 and 6th in 1997, will again be in the Kenyan team for this year’s Championships, but the guys to watch in Portugal are two others: Abraham Cherono and Wilberforce Talel.

At the Kenyan Nationals, the 19 year-old Cherono was second and Talel - he is already 23 - was third. The amazing thing: Cherono was leading almost the whole race and was beaten by Paul Tergat only in the last 200 meters.

Abraham Cherono is the younger brother of Christopher Koskei, the reigning World Champion in the 3000m steeplechase. The Koskei family is for sure the most competitive running family in the world: Christopher is World Champion, Abraham won the silver medal in the 1998 World Junior Championships and Stephen is the World Youth Champion - all in the steeplechase! And sister Jennifer Cherono is also a runner.

Abraham Cherono went to school at Sergoyt near Iten where the famous St-Patrick's High School is situated. No wonder he got together with Brother Colm O'Connell, the famous coach from there. For four years Abraham Cherono was part of O'Connell's group, now he is coached by Yobes Ondieki, the first man to run the 10 000 m below 27 minutes (1993). Ondieki started his job at Iten a few months ago with a dozen athletes, including Cherono, Stephen Kipkorir and Kenneth Kimwetich.

Wilberforce Talel also has his roots at Iten. And unlike Cherono he went to school at St. Patrick's, following in the footsteps of such successful athletes as Mike Boit, Peter Rono, Wilson Kipketer and Japhet Kimutai. And Wilson Boit Kipketer, the World Champion in steeplechase 1997.

Brother Colm remembers: "Wilson Boit and Wilberforce Talel were classmates. Wilson had a very big influence on him. He was encouraging him to go on with running. At that time Talel was a very mediocre runner, you know, mostly he was training with the girls. Thanks to Wilson Boit he never gave up and finally started high-level training about two years ago."

When Talel is in Kenya, he stays most of the time at Ngong near Nairobi where he trains with Paul Kosgei and a few other athletes and sometimes also with Paul Tergat, who lives there. Talel and Cherono, both managed by former Italian long distance runner Gianni Demadonna, will be the ones to watch in Portugal.

Jürg Wirz is a freelance journalist who lives and works in Eldoret