How Ngeno overcame setbacks in his career to book ticket to Budapest

Emmanuel Wanyonyi (R) wins 800 Men semifinal 2 race during the Trials for World Athletics Championship held at Nyayo National stadium in Nairobi on July 07, 2023.[Stafford Ondego, Standard]

Alex Kipngetich Ngeno might have secured a place in Kenya’s team to the World Championships next week in Budapest, Hungary.

However, it has not been a smooth journey for the 800m runner as a number of setbacks almost stopped his career, but he was never going to give up no matter what.

Ngeno who spoke to Standard Sports reflects on sad events prior to National Athletics trials for Budapest World Championships that proved a foundation for ensuring he made the national team to the global championships that start on August 19.  

Having secured the national team ticket, the 2018 World Under-20 800m silver medallist hopes Kenyans can sweep the podium as he will team up with the defending champion Emmanuel Korir, inform Emanuel Wanyonyi and Olympic silver medalist Ferguson Rotich as he looks to stand at the top of the world after all the challenges he has faced.

Ngeno, who started his athletics journey while still a student at Sotit Boys Secondary School in Konoin, Bomet County as 110m hurdler before transiting to 800m event has overcome many setbacks on his quest to athletics stardom.  

To him, the rough path he has faced in his quest to becoming an athletics star is something he has to grapple with. In 2021, he missed out on Olympics trials and together with his manager Malcolm Anderson he decided to undergo a corrective surgery on his right arm.

He had sustained a burn when he was a kid making his arm attach itself to the body making it difficult to swing fully or to operate at arms length.

“When I saw that I had no opportunity to represent Kenya at the Tokyo Olympics, Malcom, my manager offered to help me do the operation at Kijabe Hospital, in August 2021 and by March the following year, my arm had fully healed and I started training,” said Ngeno who is coached by Kericho-based tactician Gabriel Kiptanui who also trains World silver medalist Beatrice Chebet, Miriam Cherop, Bernard Kibet among top athletes.

Both Chebet and Kibet will be representing the country in Budapest in women’s 5000m and men’s 10,000m. 

Last year, Ngeno made the World Championships team to Eugene but was locked out due to mandatory in and out of competition doping tests regulations. 

Determined to push for better show in the 2023 season, the Kenya Prisons Service Officer started the season with Athletics Kenya national cross country before his programme was halted by the sad news of the loss of his father and niece in a road accident along Kericho-Londiani junction in February. 

“This was devastating moment for me, I thought it was the end of the world for me, my father was traveling back from Nairobi with my three sisters and a niece when the accident happened, my sisters sustained serious injuries unfortunately we lost our father and the niece in that incident, it was a huge setback. 

“After the incident, emotions took a toll on me, I couldn’t even train but again, with the passing of my dad, I suddenly became the breadwinner for my family. I had to recollect myself and start training. I got lots of emotional support from my teammates, especially Kibet and Mirriam who is my wife and training mate. My coach, Gabriel has been so supportive to me as well. Coming out of those emotional moments and making the national team was a blessing, the trials were so competitive that I had to deploy all my tactics,” he said. 

In the 2019 World Championships in Doha, Ngeno made the semi-finals but the 23-year-old believes he has what it takes to get to the podium in Budapest global showpiece. 

“In Doha, I had just come out of junior ranks, I didn’t have much experience in senior races but going to Budapest, with current top athletes in the 800m event, I believe we can all can make the podium. I have overcome so much the strength and form I have currently, I see myself in the podium position but we have to deploy team tactics to ensure all of us sail to the finals, from there, we can all get the top slots,” Ngeno who has personal best of 1:44.21 said. 

Kenya has entered four athletes in men’s 800m courtesy of Korir’s wildcard having won the world title last year in Eugene.

The Olympic champion will be joined by Wanyonyi and Rotich alongside Ngeno.

Wanyonyi is among the athletes who will be eyeing top finish in Hungary having started the season with a victory at the World Cross Country Championships in February in Australia before winning the Kipkeino Classic in May.

He continued with his red-hot form at the Diamond League meetings securing wins at the Rabat and Paris legs.

Meanwhile, the medals of the World Athletics Championships have been unveiled. The event’s organisers incorporated several distinctive features into the organisational work, aimed to ensure the medals were truly one-of-a-kind.

The design of the medals was driven by a focus on uniqueness and originality. Deviating from traditional medal designs, the emphasis was placed on representing the host country.

On one side of the medals, the central figure is the logo of the WCH Budapest 23: the Statue of Liberty atop Gellért Hill, a prominent and recognisable landmark in Budapest.

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