Kenyan middle-distance runner Noah Ngeny (© Getty Images)
What, on the eve of the 15th IAAF Grand Prix Final, looked to be the least exciting of events could well offer tomorrow some of the biggest surprises and highest standards on the track of the Olympic Stadium in Munich.
Noah Ngeny, the 20 year-old Kenyan prodigy, is determined to attempt, for the last time this season, to set a New World Record in the 1500m. The record belongs to Hicham El Guerrouj, with a time of 3:26.00, but the Moroccan announced yesterday that he would be unable to compete in Munich: he has advanced the date of a painful, and slightly embarrassing (as it is for haemorrhoids) operation so as to be able to start his preparations for next year’s Olympic Games in the best possible condition.
Ngeny, like El Guerrouj in Berlin, has shown that he is still, despite having run more than twenty extremely fast races this season, in superb shape: good enough to beat an ancient and glorious record, that of 2:12.18 set by Sir Sebastian Coe in the 1000m, which had stood since 1981. Just six days ago, on the track in Rieti, Ngeny clocked 2:11.96, a result which has convinced the Kenyan to make yet another attempt on the most prestigious record in the 1500m.
Ngeny will not be alone in this difficult challenge: at least two athletes will be pacing him and the success of his attempt will depend as much as anything else on whether the pacemakers’ legs can keep up the rhythm. One of those pairs of legs should belong to William Tanui – the ex-Olympic champion, who is as good as ever at setting the pace. A bet on a successful record attempt might be money well spent.
It is worth mentioning here that, on the occasion of El Guerrouj’s record, it was Ngeny who led the Moroccan through the 1100-metre mark, going through 1000m in 2:18.5. Another passage at this speed shouldn’t be too hard a task for Ngeny, the problem will be to see whether he has the stamina to finish like El Guerrouj in Rome: running the last 400 metres in 53.5.
Noah Ngeny has been preparing in his London base for the attempt, which would be one of the last great athletics exploits of the century. For it is tomorrow that the track season officially ends, even though, in the Southern Hemisphere, where Spring is starting, there are still a number of meetings scheduled.
But the IAAF Grand Prix Final, with it’s $3,388,000 in prizes, is really the signal for most of our sport’s champions to head off for some well-earned holidays, with their pockets full. Who knows whether Ngeny will leave with the extra $100,000 of a World Record bonus?