Daniel Kipchirchir Komen wins the 1500m at the Paris Golden League meeting
Perhaps it occurred to him while leafing through all-time performance lists in the Mile. Or, more likely, it came to him while sharing a drive to the traditional pre-meet Strawberry Party at Oslo’s elegant City Hall with former World record holder Steve Cram. In either case, when he takes to the start line tomorrow night in Oslo’s newly-rebuilt Bislett Stadium, Daniel Kipchirchir Komen now knows that the evening’s centerpiece event, the legendary Dream Mile, is far from just an ordinary race.
Now familiar with the event’s rich history, the young Kenyan, not yet 21, is hoping that his first appearance in Oslo will result in a special night. “With the great crowd that will come, something fantastic can come tomorrow.”
‘Fantastic’ is an apt descriptor for Oslo’s Dream Mile, synonymous with some of the finest performances ever produced in what is arguably the most popular events in athletics. In 1979, Sebastian Coe lowered the mile World record to 3:49.0. The following year, Steve Ovett improved on the mark, running 3:48.8. In 1985, Steve Cram bettered the record to 3:46.32, a record that stood for more than eight years. After the Britons’ record rampage in the late 1970s and early 1980s, Hicham El Guerrouj improved the meet record to 3:44.90 in 1997, still the fifth fastest performance ever.
And that’s the mark that Komen says he’s gunning for tomorrow.
“I would like to go for 3:44, but I don’t know how it will be with the pace,” he said, but he did promise that he would improve on his personal best, a modest 3:54.03 from July 2004, a period when his 1500 best was just 3:42. This season, he has produced three of the year’s fastest 1500 performances: a 3:30.77 win in Doha, his 3:30.01 PB victory in Paris, and a 3:30.37 runner-up finish in Rome. No other competitor this year has made more than one foray into sub-3:31 territory.
“We have Bernard Lagat, and Daham Bashir,” he said, listing the strong field. “The guys are very strong. I hope tomorrow that we can better the time. The stadium is brand new, and I hope it’s going to produce good results.”
Komen said he was thrilled to meet and spend some time with Cram prior to the race, remarking, “For sure, he’s a hero.”
Cram too was delighted that some of the today’s top middle distance stars show interest in the stars of the past.
“It’s very important that new athletes try and learn from the past,” Cram said. “They need some sort of historical knowledge as a reference. That is where you learn to become a better athlete. It’s like any kind of history; you have to learn from the past.”
“Not enough of the new generation come and ask us questions,” Cram continued. “That’s particularly true among the British. How are they supposed to learn? Yes, it’s a different era and a different time, but you can still learn. As an athlete it’s a balancing act between yourself as an athlete and picking up knowledge from people who’ve been there and done it.”
For his part, Komen admits that he has much to learn in his event. This year is after all, his first serious season contesting the 1500m.
“Yes,” he laughs. “I’m still learning a lot. In a race like the 1500 or mile, it’s a world-wide race. You can expect everyone to run well. It’s really a very strong race. And everyone has different tactics.”
Among that world-wide field on Friday night are Americans Bernard Lagat and Alan Webb, who will be aiming for Steve Scott’s U.S. record of 3:47.69, set here in 1982; Nick Willis of New Zealand, who broke John Walker’s national 1500m record in Rome, and now chasing the legend’s mark in the mile; and Australian Craig Mottram, chasing Simon Doyle’s long-standing Australian record, also set at the Bislett Games.
Bob Ramsak for the IAAF