London race takes shape as Kenyan Kirui eyes third world marathon title

Abel Kirui, of Kenya, waves after winning the Chicago Marathon, Sunday, Oct. 9, 2016, in Chicago. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)

Kenyan marathon ace Abel Kirui is targeting victory at both the London Marathon in April and a third world title in the same city later in the summer.

The 2012 London Olympics silver medallist and two-time IAAF World Champion bounced back to form when he won the Chicago Marathon last October, ending a four-year injury nightmare that saw him fall off the radar of elite runners at the ultimate distance.

Kirui, 34, was quoted in local press describing his outlook for 2017, and declared he was nearing his best form ever after recovering from knee and Achilles injuries that saw him miss the 2013 Moscow and 2015 Beijing Worlds.

He has thrown his hat in the ring to face what is expected to be an imposing field in the April 23 London Marathon, where he is hoping to run to the podium and convince Kenyan selectors to include him in the country’s men marathon team for the World Championships.

Kirui, who ran to two fifth-place finishes at the London city marathon with a time of 2:07:56 in 2012 and 2:08:05 in 2010 — is in line to take on several fearsome competitors.

This includes Berlin winner and Ethiopian track world record holder Kenenisa Bekele.

“By the grace of God, I shall be going for the third world title in London, but my greatest desire is to be among the top three at the London Marathon. The preparations are still on and I think I shall get an invite,” he said.

“At the World Championships we need to be always at the top. So when Kirui is there, be assured I shall make it to the podium or we get the top two positions. We need to retain our title as the leaders in the world. If I manage to achieve that, Kenyans will be happy and say that Kirui did us proud,” Kirui told local website Citizen Digital.

Kirui was the third Kenyan after Douglas Wakiihuri (1987) and Luke Kibet (2007) to win the world title at Berlin 2009 and the first to successfully defend it when he took gold at the 2011 edition in Daegu.In Berlin, Kirui set a championship record of 2:06:54 when leading compatriot Emmanuel Kipchirchir Mutai (at 2:07:48) to the Kenyan 1-2 with Ethiopian Tsegay Kebede rounding out the podium with a time of 2:08:35.

Kirui held on to his title in South Korea with the second-fastest winning time at the biennial track and field global showpiece where he clocked a season best of 2:07:38.

His fellow countryman Vincent Kipruto (2:10:06) won silver and Rio 2016 Olympics silver medallist Feyisa Lilesa from Ethiopia took the bronze with a time of 2:10:32.

Kirui dethroned Dickson Chumba as Chicago champion in a gruelling contest over the final five kilometres as Kenyans occupied the first five positions.Chumba battled jetlag to come in second with a time of 2:11:26.

That was just four seconds in arrears as Gideon Kipketer (2:12:20), Paul Lonyangata (2:13:17) and Stephen Sambu (2:13:35) closed the top five. “Chicago was not easy; it was a matter of life and death. Dickson is another talent, that you cannot afford to undermine because he is an under 2:05 guy and has been winning various races, and knows what he wants,” Kirui said.

Kirui added that it took some strategy to race Dickson.

—Xinhua

 

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