Micah Kogo’s first memories of athletics came in 1992 when as a six-year-old boy he watched middle-distance runner David Kibet run through his village. Kibet, the 7th place finisher in the previous year’s World Championship 1500m final in Tokyo, was later in 1992 to come 10th at the Barcelona Olympic Games.
Now Kogo, 20 (born 3 June 1986), has every chance of following in Kibet footsteps’ to both the World Championships and Olympic Games, and emulating if not surpassing his accomplishments after showing fantastic potential and finishing 2006 as the world’s fastest 10,000m runner of 2006..
Kogo broke through into world class late year recording the sixth fastest time in history for the 10,000m in Brussels (26:35.63), and he has impressively backed up that staggering performance this winter with a series of eye-catching performances with his latest victory in Amorebieta, Spain, earlier this month.
From a farming community near Eldoret, Kogo says of first seeing Kibet as a youngster: “I saw him on TV and thought one day I want to run like him.”
But if Kibet was the initial spark which ignited his passion for athletics then it was his training partner Benjamin Limo, the 2005 World 5000m champion, who gave him the belief.
In 2005 Kogo was an emerging athlete with a solid rather than spectacular personal best of 13:16.31 for 5000m. His first European season had been tough as Kogo himself admitted: “I trained with Mike Kigen and Joseph Ebuya in Europe and we struggled training with the likes of Craig Mottram.”
But Limo’s World Championship triumph in Helsinki showed Kogo that anything was possible.
“In Kenya we all looked up to him (Limo) he was very strong and we all tried to hang on to him in training. We saw what Ben did and went back to Kenya trained harder and showed no fear.”
A calf injury wrecked any chance of Kogo making the Kenyan team for the 2006 World Cross Country Championships in Japan but come the summer season the early indications were he had benefited from the harder training.
Kogo registered an impressive 27:16.75 time to finish second in the 10,000m in Hengelo (8 May), and also a 5000m personal best of 13:00.77 for fourth in Stockholm (25 July), having already taken it down to 13:06.18 in New York on 3 June.
However, even he was taken aback by what he achieved in Brussels when he destroyed the field to win what is annually one if not the fastest 10,000m race on the one-day meeting circuit.
“It surprised me very much,” said Kogo. “I was hoping to improve on my time from Hengelo and even get under 27 minutes but I didn’t think I would run so fast. That performance makes me think I can fulfil my potential.”
Dividing his time between Kenya and a training base in London Kogo has become good friends with Great Britain’s Somalian-born European Cross Country champion Mo Farah.
Indeed, the Briton got the better of Kogo after Farah edged him in a tight sprint finish in a cross country race in Dunkerque in November. Since then Kogo has triumphed in the Houilles 10km and L’Escalade 8km events on the road before revealing his cross country pedigree by defeating a world class field to win in Amorebieta earlier this month. Since he has taken a third place in another croiss country in Le Mans, France (14 Jan) last weekend.
His form is hot but Kogo is taking nothing for granted. He knows he faces a mighty scrap simply to make the Kenyan team for the World Cross Country Championships at the incredibly competitive Kenyan Trials.
“Now my hopes are focused on the World Cross Country Championships (24 March),” said Kogo. “I hope to win silver, bronze or maybe the gold. But at the trials there are a lot of strong people. Not only the main athletes but also the newcomers,” he warned.
Beyond Mombasa the main aim of the summer season is the 10,000m at the World Championships in Osaka. Kogo hopes to get in among the Ethiopians who have dominated the event in recent years although he has enormous respect for Olympic 10,000m champion Kenenisa Bekele.
“I think I can perform very well in the 10,000m and apart from Kenenisa Bekele there is nobody I will fear,” he added.
But despite his scintillating 10,000m time last year Kogo is far from the finished article. He has not been blessed with a blistering turn of pace which can sometimes count against him at the end of a race, although he has worked hard to address this chink in his armoury.
Indeed, according to his agent Ricky Simms his long-term future might lie in the marathon. Simms says Kogo’s low knee lift and shuffling gait is similar in style to the Japanese female marathon runners and perfectly suited to the 26.2-mile distance.
Kogo himself is comfortable on the road and has not ruled out the move up in distance in the long-term.
Notvbaly at the end of last year in Nijmegen, The Netherlands - Kogo won the 23rd edition of the prestigous Zevenheuvelenloop over the distance of 15 kilometres in a time of 42:42, in the process he beat World Road Running Champion Zersenay Tadesse of Eritrea
“I feel relaxed when I am on the road,” commented an understated Kogo.
Steve Landells for the IAAF