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Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Uganda’s Kiprotich relishes Rio clash with mentor Kipchoge

Stephen Kiprotich trains in Kaptagat PHOTO/Charity Wanja
London 2012 Olympics and Moscow 2013 world marathon champion; Uganda’s Stephen Kiprotich is looking forward to defending his title against his mentor and training partner -Eliud Kipchoge- the two-time London winner who has been installed as the runaway favourite for Rio 2016.
It will be first time the pair will be racing each other as marathoners and only the second time in their careers they will start against each other since the second heat of the men 5000m at the 2007 Osaka Worlds in Japan.
Kipchoge qualified for the finals by clocking 13:33.37 and went on to win silver at the finals in 13:46.00 while it was the end of the road for Kiprotich who failed to make it for the finals after stopping the timer in 14:04.22 for 29th overall.
Speaking to Citizen Digital after a light morning training session at Global Sports Camp in Katagat, Eldoret last week; Kiprotich is confident he will hold on to his coveted crown and once again deny Kenya a second Olympics marathon gold after he succeeded the late Beijing 2008 winner, Samuel Wanjiru.
“Olympics are around the corner and my training is more intense now. I’m preparing myself very well to go and defend my title. I want to remind people that I’m still existing and the only thing I’m going there to do is defend my title,” the Moscow winner added.
He is out to bounce back at the middle step of the podium after losing his world title in Beijing last year to Eritrean teenager, Ghirmay Ghebreslassie (2:12:28) where he finished sixth in 2:14:43 last summer, having come to the Worlds on the back of running a Uganda record of 2:06:33 in finishing second at the Tokyo Marathon.
This season, the Ugandan star is heading to the Olympics having run 2:07:46 for fourth at the same Tokyo World Marathon Majors race on February 28 and he is not fazed at training for the quadrennial showpiece alongside Kipchoge and the 2012 Boston winner, Wesley Korir who are in the Kenyan team for Rio 2016.
 “Kipchoge is my mentor and I’m happy that he is also in the Olympics team. I shall be running alongside my mentor whom I’m training with and I think it will be great. I also like to train with top athletes’ like Korir and others.
“Here in camp we live like brothers and they do not have issues training with me. Maybe people from outside may have a problem, worried that I will beat Kenyans and that’s on the negative side. After all, the marathon will have the best marathoner’s from various countries.
“In fact most of my training partners are happy to train with me. They ask me how I did it at the Olympics and even before they go for their competitions we do talk and give them advice. It’s a win, win situation,” the marathoner who hails from Burkwo in the distance heartland of Uganda explained.
“I’m very happy to train and compete against my mentor once more. It’s been nine years since we met in Osaka, and we shall be meeting on a different level. I believe the strongest among us will run away with the title,” the 27 year-old affable athlete enthused.
Kiprotich is even more motivated to retain his title to bring the cheer to his ailing mother back at home.
“So far my body is responding well to the training though my mum has not been feeling well for quiet sometime. It was stressing me up trying to balance the two and with a lot of travelling, but now I’m happy. My brother is taking care of them and I can concentrate and focus on that gold medal.
“If I win the medal again I shall dedicate the medal to my family and coach.  They are always in my mind as I compete and my motivators,” the London champion added with a smile.
As for Kipchoge who will be going for his third Olympics but a first as a marathoner is similarly not bothered by going through his preparations with a potential rival.
“I’m a professional and I’m a real sports man. Those who say that we should not train with Kiprotich do not think beyond sports and they got their own issues. This is sport and it a matter of preparations, planning and this is part of it. After all we don’t go there to run only with our legs but with our hearts and mind,’’ the Athens 2004 bronze and Beijing 2008 silver winner over 5000m asserted.