ITEN, Kenya (Reuters) - With a potential family medal double dashed by injury, Kenyan marathon runner Mike Kipyego will take extra motivation from his absent sister’s encouragement when he lines up at the world championships in Moscow next month.
“I want to win it for her and for my family,” Kipyego told Reuters in Iten, a small village perched on an escarpment in Kenya’s Rift Valley.
“Two weeks ago when I was named in the team, she called me and said ‘you were telling me to win the Olympics, but now is your chance, go and do it’. So I have a task.”
After taking silver over 10,000 meters at the London Olympics, Sally Kipyego missed the Kenyan trials for Moscow due to a heel injury and will not be able to improve on the world silver she won in 2011.
“After the Olympics I told her ‘next year, you have to qualify for the world championships, we will go together and bring back two gold medals’ but now it’s not going to happen,” Mike Kipyego said.
The 29-year-old has had a frustrating career, spending nearly a decade trying to replicate the success of his teenage years after winning 3,000m steeplechase gold at the 2002 world junior championships.
After qualifying for the 2003 worlds in Paris, where he was eliminated in the steeplechase heats after a fall, Kipyego qualified for the 2005 and 2009 editions but was dropped from the squad on both occasions in favor of Paul Koech.
“In 2005 I thought the Kenyan gold was maybe lying in Paul’s hands so I just said ‘you go’,” Kipyego said, though ultimately it was Athletics Kenya that made that decision for him.
“I did steeple for nine years, then I realized I have no speed. I would be doing well but in the last lap, I would fall back. “I then decided to run something longer and found myself in marathon.”
That was in 2010 and two years later he won the Tokyo marathon. Now he wants a global title.
“Finally I get a chance to be a world champion,” said Kipyego. “It’s like my prayers have been answered.”
Kipyego said seeing his younger sister emerge as a top athlete and win medals at world championships and then the Olympics has inspired him, even though he was the first one to burst on the athletics scene.
“When I qualified for the youth championships, I think I gave my family a lot of hope. My sister realized even she can do something herself,” said Kipyego.
“In the future, we both want to win golds, that’s the dream.”
Editing by Justin Palmer