A seventh place finish in the 5000m final at the World Athletics U20 Championships in Kenyan capital Nairobi on August 16 did not detail Rodgers Kibet’s potential.
And the teenager is a big prospect, according to his coach Addy Ruiter and manager Jurrie van der Velden of Global Sports Communication (GSC).
On Sunday, Kibet surprised Ruiter and Jurrie by beating the field to win the famous Groningen 4 Miles race in the Netherlands.
The 16-year-old posted a winning time of 17 minutes and 27 minutes. “I feel okay, as if I have not even run,” a rather articulate Kibet race in a post-race interview.
“He is surprising me,” said Ruiter, who picked Kibet from his home in Chekwasta, Kwosir sub-county of Kween district in May last year to join the GSC camp in Kapchorwa.
Kibet stunned the field early when he passed the 5km mark in 13:32 and no one in the elite field attempted to catch up with him.
“He was running most of the time in front of the group. Just before 5km, he sped up and nobody could follow,” an amazed Ruiter stated.
A week prior, Kibet had battled a winding course to finish fourth behind counterpart Hosea Kiplangat at the Trento 10K in Italy but he enjoyed the Groningen course.
“It was a good course, not like Italy which was surrounded by many corners. This one was okay. This distance suited me because I am just beginning.”
He is the first Ugandan to win the event, joining a lucrative list of many formidable names to have won it like Kenyan Eliud Kipchoge, Ethiopians Yomif Kejelcha, Sileshi Sihine and Haile Gebrselassie among others.
“He’s well-articulated,” noted Jurrie. Kibet’s dream is big. “I want to be like those of [Joshua] Cheptegei, [Jacob] Kiplimo, [Eliud] Kipchoge. My elders usually tell me that hard work pays. And that is also from Joshua Cheptegei, as he is also my elder, as a parent in athletics,” he added.
Meanwhile, the Ugandan trio of Isaac Kibet (28:04), Samuel Kibet (28:29) and Ezekiel Mutai (28:32) came third, fifth and seventh respectively at the Corrida de Villejuif 10K in France.