Make no mistake. Stephen Kiprotich is by no means a spent force. The Olympic and World marathon champion’s shortfalls at World Marathon Majors should not blind anyone into believing the middle aged star is gone.
I have already read some postmortems wrapping him up, albeit some correctly pointing to deficits at the London and New York Marathons as a sign that he still has work to do before he can beat Kenyan and Ethiopian stars, who seem to put all their energies on such events than say, Olympics and Worlds.
We can look to his most recent performances in London and New York and point where it all went wrong. For any marathoner, two events in a year should be reasonable enough, while three is the most you should do in 365 days.
After ending Uganda’s 40-year wait for a gold medal at the London Olympics last year, Kiprotich, for example, rested for just five months before returning to the road to claim a half marathon victory in Spain.
He was back in the UK for the London Marathon, where he finished sixth, just two months after Spain.
Kiprotich then had a four-month rest before returning to win gold at the World Championships in Moscow, where he surprisingly looked fresher, leaner and sharper as he broke away from a cast of chasing Kenyans and Ethiopians.
While the victory in Moscow ensured Kiprotich entrenched his name in the annals of sporting history, it masked the duress his body was being subjected to.
From then it was always going to be difficult for the athlete to live up with the likes of eventual New York winners Geoffrey Mutai (Kenya), who did not run at the Olympics, London and the Worlds, plus Ethiopian Tsegaye Kebede, who won the London Marathon and finished fourth in Moscow before last Sunday’s race.
So Kiprotich, who should surely miss the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow next year as he recovers, is hardly a spent force at 25. He should forfeit the Games in Glasgow and save the best for last – for at least two major city marathons in 2014.
And that is not to mention defence of his world title and the Olympic gold in 2015 and 2016. But what is clear is he may not be having Jackson Kiprop, who finished seventh in New York – five places ahead of Kiprotich, for an ‘escort.’
Time is now for Kiprop, who had a considerable rest having won the Mumbai Marathon, plus the Worlds, heading into last Sunday, to become his own man.
The 28-year-old has for some time now served well the ‘escort’ role to Kiprotich. He did so to devastating effect in Moscow when he ran the Kenyans and Ethiopians ragged before letting the Olympic king break away to his World title.
Kiprop, after a rather frustrating start to his career, must step away from the ‘support’ role and take his lead. Having stood out from the crowd in Mumbai, where he actually entered as a pacesetter before going on to win it on a course record of 2:09:32 and a personal best, Kiprop’s star, albeit under the shadow of Kiprotich, has been steadily raising.
His confidence has not been lost to the watching eye as seen in his ‘supporting role’ in Moscow, where he finished 10th after tiring late on. And when he came up against the world’s best last Sunday, he had to beat the man he was supposed to be ‘escorting’. Kiprop should continue working along that direction.
He has the Commonwealth Games next year to finally become a national star he should be. He has aided Kiprotich to great things, which the latter and nation acknowledge and have been grateful for. Now he needs to be known for Kiprop, not for Kiprotich.
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