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Monday, September 5, 2011

Ezekiel Kemboi : Kenya’s Unsung Hero

Kemboi bolting to greatness
After nine days of grueling and riveting competition in South Korea’s coastal city of Daegu, curtains finally came down on the 13th edition of the IAAF World Athletics Championships.

Like most sporting events, it was not deficient of thrills, triumphs, disappointments, ecstasies, agonies, victories and side shows. From Yelena Isinbayeva failing to leap high enough in the pole vault to Usain Bolt’s disqualification for a false start in the 100m final to Kenyan women making history by becoming the first ever team to complete a podium sweep in the marathon to world steeplechase champion Ezekiel Kemboi showing the world that he can run, and get jiggy.

Superpowers, the United States and Russia may have finished at the zenith in the medals standings but it was third-placed Kenya whose athletes provided the best performances in the biennial event. With a mere 46 athletes as compared to the US’s 155 or Russia’s 73, Kenya gave a good account of themselves winning 17medals with seven gold, six silver and four bronze, the US had 25 (15-8-5) while Russia finished with 19 (9-4-6)

From the moment the East Africans announced their intention to overpower the competition with a podium sweep in the marathon, the middle and long distance powerhouse never looked back. And by the time Janeth Jepkosgei took to the field to defend her women’s 800m title, which she successfully failed, her bronze medal nevertheless served to cap an impressive outing for Kenyans

Kenya has always been a thrust in athletics but their 17medal-coup in Daegu is the team’s best ever in a world championship.

So fine and refined was the team’s performance that it’s even hard to pick out the star performer among the contingent that traveled to South Korea. Already a Commonwealth champion, Vivian Cheruiyot is now not only a champion in the 5,000m but also in the 10,000m discipline. She’s only the second woman to have achieved that fete after Ethiopia’s Tirunesh Dibaba in 2005. After faltering to deceive for quite some time, Asbel Kiprop finally got his tactics right and won that elusive 1,500m gold. And so did David Rudisha who proved a class above the rest in winning the 800m men’s final.

But while Rudisha’s win, as expected as it was, was greeted with much fanfare, there’s one athlete who has been turning out apex performances time and again but still remains an unsung hero. His name is Ezekiel Kemboi Cheboi; the man who has become a hit on Youtube thanks to his dancing celebration he dedicated to Usain Bolt after winning the 3000m steeplechase.

Born in Matira, Marakwet District in Kenya’s expansive Rift Valley Province, the 29-year-old is one of the finest steeplechasers in recent memory. Unlike his countryman David Lekuta Rudisha, he may not have broken the world record but his impressive performances over the distance have been second to a few. His gold in Daegu makes him a double world champion having won gold in Berlin two years ago.

The former Kapsowar Boys secondary school student is also an Olympic champion thanks to the gold he won in the 2004 Athens Olympics, a one-time Commonwealth games champion and silver medalist in two occasions.

After bursting into the scene as a 19-year-old, Kemboi became the Africa Junior Champion in 2001 but ascended to prominence a year later when he won silver at the 2002 Commonwealth games in Manchester. He finished fourth in the Africa Championships in Tunisia in the same year but didn’t have to wait for long as he won gold in the 2003 All-Africa Games in Abuja, Nigeria. Further success followed the father to Manchester Kiprono in the subsequent years and after finishing second and third in the 2003 World Championships and World Athletics Finals respectively, he realized his dream by becoming an Olympic champion in Athens in 2004.

More success has followed the double world champion over the years and he has won everything there is to win in the distance.

Kemboi’s time of 7:55:76 he ran in July this year puts him sixth in the all time list of the fastest steeplechasers and he is the only man, alongside countrymates Brimin Kipruto and Reuben Kosgei to have won both Olympic and world golds in the event. His win in Daegu makes him the most decorated 3000m steeplechase athlete of all time having won two world gold medals, three silvers, two All African Games titles as well as an Olympic gold medal.

With plans to race for the next ten years, the man with a Mohawk haircut looks like he has his best years ahead of him, be it in the steeplechase discipline or in marathon he has intimated he would like to compete in.

Wherever he ends up, whatever he ends up doing, it is important we salute this great athlete called Ezekiel Kemboi. 

And That's thesteifmastertake!!