Kenya’s success in world athletics has always been headlined by the ‘sibling rivalry’ story lines.
The intense competitions are always witnessed in major events like Africa Cross Country, World Cross Country, World Championships and the Olympic Games contests.
It’s interesting to see how siblings from certain well-known families stage rivalries as they compete in the national team or, at times, representing their adopted nations.
Siblings that make the cut in the national teams have dotted the world athletic charts for close to four decades, putting up a strong athletic empire.
So keen has been their enthusiasm to shatter every record in sight that made the world wonder what makes them tick.
Their victory has been so consistent that it begs a closer look on the man behind the superb training regimen. But there is no magic, just natural talent.
The Kenyan athletics script reads like that of perennial rivals, Ethiopia. World 5,000m and 10,000m record holder Kenenisa Bekele is the brother of Tariku Bekele, another accomplished 5,000m runner.
They come from Bekoji in the Oromia region of Ethiopia, some 300km from Addis Ababa, alongside the trio Dibaba siblings – Genzebe, Tirunesh and Ejegayehu – and their cousin Derartu Tulu, Africa’s first woman to win gold medal in 10,000m at the 1992 Barcelona Olympics.
Tirunesh is the most decorated of them all. She is the current Olympic 10,000m champion and has won four world track titles and five world cross country titles.
Twins Kipkoech Cheruiyot and Charles Cheruiyot set the ball rolling for Kenyan siblings when they made the Olympic Games 1,500m and 5,000m teams in Los Angeles in 1984.
in their footsteps was Ibrahim Hussein, Kenya’s first man to win Boston Marathon in 1988.
He is the older brother of Mbarak Hussein, a naturalised US citizen who is an elite Master’s marathoner, with two top five finishes in Boston (fifth in 2001 and fourth in 2002).
Mathew Birir made the Olympics team in 3,000m steeplechase with his younger brother Jonah Birir, who competed in 1,500m. Mathew bagged gold medal while Jonah bowed out in the semi-final.
Birir, who lives in Eldama Ravine, said he was highly motivated to win gold after his brother lost in the semis: “We encouraged one another and ensured that we returned home with at least a medal.”
Bro Colm O’Connell, who has been training athletes in Iten since 1976, said the role model factor has been quite helpful.
“We have witnessed such athletes inspiring their young ones to take up serious training. And that’s quite healthy. One example is how Sylvia Kibet introduced her elder sister Hilda Kibet into athletics,” said O’Connell.
Hilda, a former European Cross Country champion, is a naturalised Dutch while Sylvia is a former world 5,000m silver medalist.
The fierce track battle between Qatar’s Saif Said Shaheen (formerly Stephen Cherono of Kenya) and his immediate elder Abraham at major championships – each on his national jersey – offered refreshing moments on sibling rivalry.
Shaheen is the world 3,000m steeplechase record holder at 7:53.63 while Christopher ‘Jogoo’ Kosgei is a former world 5,000m champion.
There is also the Kibet family from Kapchorwa village in Keiyo South, who has been unleashing a ceaseless fight on the tracks.
The Kibets bask in the rare glory of sporting with three of the running daughters, alongside their Dutch cousin Lorna Kiplagat, competing at international level. Other three are faring on well at local competitions.
Ivy Jepkoech and Elvin Jelimo are twins. Ivy is based at Global Sports Communications camp in Nijmegen, The Netherlands, while Elvin is based in the US. Valentine, the youngest in the Kibet family competes in some races in Netherlands.
The late Some Muge sons and a daughter have produced spectacular sights to behold in track and cross-country running – just like their father, who was Kenya’s first medalist at the IAAF World Cross-Country Championships in 1983.
Mathew Kisorio and Peter Kimeli were in the national junior team to IAAF World Cross Country championships in Edinburgh, Scotland, in 2008.
Their immediate younger brother Nicholas Togom won gold at the Africa Cross Country in Cape Town in 2011.
Faith Chepng’etich and Beatrice Chepkemoi made the national team to the World Cross Country Championships in Bydgoszcz, Poland, in 2013.
The Masai family has ruled the world 10,000m contests. They are Moses Masai (world 10,000m bronze in 2009 in Berlin, Germany), Linet Masai (2009 world 10,000m champion in 2009 Berlin), Dennis Masai (world junior 10,000m champion in Moncton Canada in 2010) and Magdaline Masai, who excited the world when New Zealand’s Jake Robertson proposed to her at the finish line of the Great North Race in northern England a fortnight ago.
Elijah Manangoi, the world 1,500m champion, shall remain in history as another Kenyan siblings to dominate 1,500m race at the global stage as his younger brother George Manangoi won the world under-18 1,500m title in Nairobi in July.
Siblings Mercy Cherono and Caroline Chepkoech have won world junior 3,000m, World Cross Country and Africa Cross Country medals. Unfortunately, Cherono was dropped from the senior team to world cross last March.
William Chirchir, who then held the world junior 1,500m record (3:32.4), saw his brother Cornelius Chirchir lower the mark to 3:30.60. The two attended St Patrick’s High School Iten.
Mike Kipyego, the 2012 Tokyo Marathon winner, has seen her younger sister Sally Kipyego, the 2012 London Olympics 10,000m silver medalist, change her nationality to USA.
A similar script reads for Samuel Chelang’a, who is the younger brother of former Rotterdam Marathon winner Joshua Chelang’a but now represents USA.
Five-time World Cross Country champion Paul Tergat helped Samuel, who was born and bred in Kabartonjo in Baringo County, get a US track scholarship.
Hyvin Kiyeng and her younger sister Judy Kiyeng flew the Kenyan flag during the London Worlds as Cyprian Kotut struggles to emulate his elder brother Martin Lel, the three-time London Marathon winner, in road running.
Francis Leparan Rudisha longs to emulate his elder brother David Rudisha, the two-time 800m Olympic champion.