Four men chasing one 1,500m crown

By JONATHAN KOMEN: Friday, May 19th 2017 at 00:00 GMT +3 | Athletics
Asbel Kiprop wins men's 1500m final ahead of Elijah Manangoi during during the National Olympics Trials on July 1,2016 at kipchoge Stadium, Eldoret.[PHOTO:DENNIS OKEYO/STANDARD]

It’s a riddle. But it has to be answered, not now but soon – at least in a spectacular fashion.

They boast rich CVs in 1,500m and each among them longs to go one better and the adage ‘the early bird catches the worm’ drives them into intensive training.

So who will ascend to the throne and, perhaps, break Morocco’s Hicham El Guerrouj world record of 3:26.00?

On the cards are three-time world champion Asbel Kiprop, world silver medallist Elijah Manangoi and throw in the gem from Mt Elgon –Ronald Kwemoi, the world 1,500m junior record holder and Silas Kiplagat, the 2011 world silver medallist, on the stellar cast.

Already El Guerrouj has tipped Asbel, who has 3:26.69 personal best, to break his record.

Asbel longs to win world championships in London to equal El Guerrouj four wins at the worlds.

On Saturday next week, they will begin the battle at the third leg of the IAAF Diamond League meeting in Hayward Field in Eugene, USA, lining up in the Bowerman Mile.

Asbel has broken 3:50 in the mile five times in Eugene having won the IAAF Diamond Race in 2010, 2015 and 2016.

He has also won the Bowerman Mile in Eugene four times, having won the 1500m at the IAAF Diamond League meeting in Doha in a world-leading 3:32.15 last year and also winning 1500m Diamond Trophy in 2012 and 2014.

But the duo –Kiplagat and Asbel –have faced each other 36 times in the 1500m and mile, and Asbel owns a 19-17 edge. In the Bowerman Mile, Asbel has won four while Kiplagat has three wins.

Asbel won last year out of his eight appearances in Eugene while Kiplagat has competed seven times.

Manangoi, who has announced his bid for the world record and was third in Eugene last year, boasts the world leading time of 3:31.90 set in Doha last week.

Manangoi appears to have stepped out of Asbel’s shadows and out to storm onto the global stage.

“My form has picked so well and ready to challenge anyone, including my friend Asbel. I will compete in Eugene, Rome and Oslo then come for trials and head to Monaco, where I want to do something special. I won’t share now.

“El Guerrouj’s record is attainable. It’s just a matter of time,” said Manangoi.

Kwemoi, the Commonwealth Games 1,500m silver medalist, has a mile best time of 3:52.57. He stunned the world in Doha meet when he won 3,000m in 7:28.73.

Coach Bernard Ouma said the battle, which also has fast-rising Timothy Cheruiyot, will be no walk in the park.

But he blamed the internal rivalry among the athletes for Kenya’s failure to secure 1,500m medal at the Rio Olympics.

“We had the fastest 1,500m line up for Rio in terms of fielding on paper. The Diamond League series is fine but a major undoing for us in big championships like the Olympics and the World Championships.

“I think some of these athletes have excellent endurance that can even see them perform well in 5,000m where we have no-so-good athletes.

“We need team work in world championships and our coaches must unite them to help each other in London. That will enable us win medals,” said Ouma.

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