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Barmasai: Kenyan athletic king without a crown

Barmasai: Kenyan athletic king without a crown
Aileen Kimutai (AFP)

19 September 2000 - Bernard Barmasai may be the reigning world record holder in the 3,000 metres steeplechase and winner of the 1999 IAAF Grand Prix men's title, but he still remains a king without a crown.

The 26-year-old Barmasai is the latest in a long line of champions Kenya has produced in the event over the years and running over the water barriers has come to be considered as Kenya's preserve since the 1968 Mexico Olympic Games.

Having failed to make the 1996 Atlanta Games, he travelled to Athens for the World Championships as the country's second-rated steeplechaser the following year.

Despite falling after the one kilometre mark, Barmasai collected himself to take the bronze behind countryman and gold medallist, Wilson Boit Kipketer.

He was hot favourite to win the much-coveted prize in Seville last September, but he was surprisingly beaten into fifth in the race, won by another Kenyan Christopher Koskei.

The defeat was not that surprising as Barmasai's morale was not at its best after he came under the spotlight when he admitted that he had asked Koskei to let him win the Zurich Golden League event - keeping him on course for the one-million-dollar jackpot.

However, the IAAF subsequently disqualified him from the Golden League for his 'confession' to the BBC World Service.

But Barmasai believes all the disappointments are now behind him and he's ready for Sydney.

"By winning the overall Grand Prix last year, I proved that I was the number one in the world. Now I am ready to show that I am still number one in Sydney," he said recently.

A former national cross country runner, Barmasai emerged from the shadows of his compatriot Moses Kiptanui to win the African championship in 1995.

He was selected to run for Kenya in the 1996 World cross country championships in Cape Town, South Africa, where he placed sixth.

Barmasai, a father of two daughters, also holds the best time in the steeplechase since the IAAF Golden League series began in 1998.

His other achievements includes winning the 1998 African athletics championships in South Africa and a silver the same year in the Commonwealth Games in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.