On the blue tartan track at the Kasarani Stadium in Nairobi, Kenyan steeplechase running legend Ezekiel Kemboi digs deep in his heels as he goes through speed work session alongside Jairus Kipchoge Birech.
After the training, he looks around the stadium and says: “the World U18 Athletics championships was good”.
No doubt it was. Indeed, the IAAF World U18 Championships has left a lasting legacy on Kenya, however for Kemboi he is still going to chase his unprecedented steeplechase legacy in London come August despite the successful career he has had.
“The training is okay, it is going good we are feeling at home, as we prepare for the World Championships in London. I’m strong and energetic,” says Kemboi.
The 35-year-old is the most decorated steeplechaser in the history of athletics. He is the only athlete to win four world championships consecutively, he has two Olympic gold medals too.
Kemboi is also quite a character, he has hang his spikes numerous times only to backtrack on his decision. With a such an adorned career, Kemboi feels the pressure.
“I have a lot of pressure, trying to get my fifth title, it is challenging but with the training it is okay. I have my team of Conseslus Kipruto, Jairus Birech, Brimin Kipruto I think we are going to do well, as of now we are still planning,” noted Kemboi.
Kenya has dominated the hurdles and water jumps event at the World’s winning 11 titles since 1991. Kenya is the factory of steeplechase. Kemboi too has dominated. In Kenya, he is nicknamed - Baba Yao, Swahili for “Their Father.”
He is the Father of All. He is the 'Father' of steeplechase. Kemboi has had a long career in athletics spanning two decades, but seems like he won’t be putting any brakes on yet, his spikes will be active for the next couple of years.
“My career has been fantastic, I have been running for the last 20 years, it is good, I feel like a young boy, I still need to move forward to run maybe to 2030,”
His secret for longevity and staying at the top is self-discipline, plan his training well, staying focused, eating well and remaining stress free.
"Kenyans to pray for us and support us and we will go there and win.” ~ Ezekiel Kemboi - July 2017
The Kenyan steeplechase team has the 4-time champion Ezekiel Kemboi, Olympic Champion Conseslus Kipruto, 2015 Diamond league winner Jairus Birech, 2007 and 2008 World and Olympic Brimin Kiputo. Such a stellar squad, however Kemboi reckons it won’t be easy in London.
“It will happen in London, Kenya will dominate but there are two strong guys - the Moroccan and USA guy Evan Jager, it is going to be a bit crazy and tough but we are going to try out best to see if we can be top 3 in the world.”
Moroccan Soufiane El Bakkali won the steeplechase event in Stockholm and Rabat while American Evan Jager won in Monaco. Jager is Olympic silver medalist. Kemboi has never been a diamond league performer.
“The diamond league is not important for me, for me it is always my national duty to represent the country at the championships, that is my motto, I like doing it,” said Kemboi “I feel like a real Kenyan, when they play the national anthem, I feel like a real hero and I feel proud for being Kenyan and for Kenya, it feels good.”
A star-studded Kenyan steeplechase team will be in London, nevertheless, in a true Kemboi fashion, he says in London it is all about each race at a time.
“We wait until we get to London, we run and get to the semis then we will see what comes next. Kenyans to pray for us and support us and we will go there and win.”
Maybe another dance awaits from Kemboi !!!