Kiprop can match world’s best

What you need to know:

As Stephen Kiprotich faded to finish 12th, Uganda Prisons teammate Jackson Kiprop pushed hard to secure seventh place in Sunday’s New York Marathon.

Date of birth: October 20, 1986
Races: 5,000m, 10,000, cross-country and marathon
Personal bests
10km: 28:16
15km: 43:27
20km: 58:51
Half marathon: 1:01:27
Marathon: 2:09:32

The 2013 athletics season is virtually over. By now, most athletes are drawing strategies for the coming year.

For Stephen Kiprotich, Uganda’s best runner, there is little to look forward to in 2014 in terms of championship races. He is certain to miss the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow but should compete in at least two major city marathons. 2015 and 2016 must be the years racing through Kiprotich’s mind. In 2015, he has to defend his world title and the Olympic gold a year later.

That could be the most defining curve of his career. Remarkably, Kiprotich is likely to have a Ugandan opponent fighting for his titles. Jackson Kiprop is that opponent. The Uganda Prisons athlete has proved he can match the world’s best. After a frustrating start to his career, the 27-year-old has had an interesting turn around this season.

It all started in January when he was entered in the Mumbai Marathon as a pacesetter. Kiprop did his rabbit job perfectly but still had the energy to hold on and win. Not only did he win the race, the Ugandan set a course record of 2:09:32, a personal best. Although he had finished seventh at the World Half Marathon Championships in Bulgaria three months earlier, that Mumbai performance was the turning point in Kiprop’s career.

His confidence grew in bounds thereafter and it showed at the World Championships in Moscow where he finished 10th. There is general belief, however, that Kiprop could have done better than 10th had he not burnt lots of calories trying to play a ‘support role’ for eventual winner Kiprotich. “He did a great job. I thank him so much,” Kiprotich said of Kiprop after winning the world title in August. In Sunday’s New York Marathon, Kiprop once again tried to ‘pull’ Kiprotich through and through. Midway the race, television clips showed Kiprop signaling to Kiprotich to step up and keep with the leading pack.

Kiprotich, though, didn’t look to be in fine shape. After the 34km mark when Kenyans Stanely Biwott and subsequent winner Geoffrey Mutai broke off, Kiprotich couldn’t engage another gear. Quite understandable seeing that Kiprotich didn’t have the best of preparations for this one. Early last month, he had to call off his training in Kenya and spend several days in Kapchorwa attending to a sick child. Yet, after running two other marathons and a half marathon, it is likely Kiprotich’s body was not ready to compete again.

He probably needed to rest until next year. That fatigue showed as Kiprotich faded from seventh after 34km to finish 12th in 12:13:05. Kiprop battled his way to hold onto seventh in 2:10:56. It is clear Kiprop can only get better.

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