Asbel Kiprop on the eve of the Birmingham Diamond League meeting (© Jean-Pierre Durand)
It’s not often that athletes come to Birmingham citing great weather conditions as the main incentive to run fast. Or, as world 1500m champion Asbel Kiprop puts it: “Normally, here (in the United Kingdom) it is cold or rain.”
But with the promise of a more summery forecast in central England for the IAAF Diamond League meeting on Sunday (5), he made no secret that he will be chasing a fast time in his specialty event.
The world leader asked for a brisk 1:51 pace through 800m, which triggered the question whether he might have a certain Hicham El Guerrouj’s world record of 3:26.00 on his mind moving forward in the season.
After all, at the IAAF Diamond League meeting in Monaco last year, the Kenyan recorded a blistering 3:26.69, which ranks him third on the world all-time list.
“Talking about this pace and going for 1:51 (tomorrow), I was told that the weather will be nice,” he said. “It will be sunny and around 22 degrees, so this is an ideal chance to run fast.”
If there’s one thing we have learnt in the past, it’s that Kiprop isn’t a fan of the cold and knows the British weather and its climatic temperament all too well from various stints at road miles and cross country races, which haven't always seen him produce podium finishes.
On the track, however, there is no denying that Kiprop will be the man to beat in Birmingham, let alone come August and the Rio 2016 Olympics Games.
He won at the opening IAAF Diamond League meeting of the year, in Doha almost exactly a month ago, in a world-leading 3:32.15 before winning Eugene’s prestigious Bowerman Mile for the fourth time, clocking 3:51.54 last Saturday.
“I can say my preparation has been pretty good and it’s exciting because this is an Olympic year and every athlete is working extra hard to peak at the right time, so I do the same.”
As he sat in the press conference alongside Olympic champions Mo Farah and David Rudisha, and with Rio just over two months away, you could feel the memory of the London 2012 Olympic Games still leaves a bittersweet taste in the 2008 Olympic champion’s mouth.
A fortnight before London, Kiprop was quite literally on top of the world and arrived in the British capital as the man to beat. On 20 July, he stormed to a then personal best of 3:28.88 in, where else, Monaco to underscore his status as favourite. But in the Olympic final he finished a disappointing 12th, having sustained an injury just before heading to London.
“I am trying to get redemption from 2012,” he said. “I went to London and got injured. I actually felt that I should have won that day, so I am trying to redeem myself from that race.
“We all know an Olympics comes once in four years. When you mention running fast and trying to come close to Hicham (El Guerrouj’s world record) I am trying, like Rudisha and Mo Farah, to climb that ladder (of success) and to stay up there for as long as possible.”
As well as his 1500m tomorrow, Kiprop will also be lining up in the Dream Mile at the ExxonMobil Bislett Games, Oslo's IAAF Diamond League fixture this coming Thursday.
Explaining his race schedule in the lead up to the Olympics, he said: “I am trying to do exactly what I did last year, trying to minimise races, so doing four before the Kenyan trials (which begin on 29 June) is not that much.
“It also depends how fast those races are run. When you see Doha, it was not that fast with a 3:32 in the 1500m and again in the mile in Eugene. I expect to run a good time here tomorrow, so I am not exhausted that much coming into trials.”
Describing two world-leading times as “not that fast” and with his pace cut out for tomorrow, it might be worth adding the following for future reference: El Guerrouj’s splits in his 1500m world record were 54.3 (400m), 1:50.7 (800m), 2:46.34 (1200m) and 39.66 for the final 300m.
Michelle Sammet for the IAAF