Wilson Kipketer - It is never over in the tracks for me

Wilson Kipketer - It is never over in the tracks for me

Wilson Kipketer - It is never over in the tracks for me

The entire world must have been shaken on 16th August 2005 when the great middle distance runner Wilson Kipketer, one of the world greatest athletes of his time made the unexpected yet crucial announcement of his retirement.

The Kenyan born, Danish who had set the 800m world record had decided to retire from active track participation and many would be forgiven to think that was the end of feeling his constant present in the world of athletics, but that was on paper, practically, the athlete’s presence is still strongly felt especially in Monaco the capital of IAAF where he works as a lecturer and facilitator to other upcoming athletes.

Speaking to Michezoafrika.com, Kipketer took us on a journey of his life.He recalls how he had not taken athletics seriously until the age of 20yrs. He had taken part in athletics during his full primary school life in Kapchemoiywo School before joining St Patrick secondary school which is well known for nurturing athletic talents but was still not serious in making athletics his full time career.

Before 1990, he was a young boy living a normal life in Kapsabet Kenya in a family of 3 siblings but it was not until 1990 when his interests in life started changing. By then a group from Demark visited St Patrick (his secondary school) with aim of filming a documentary of the school which had proved as an athletic nurturing centre. It was during this period that Kipketer earned a golden exchange program chance that later turned to be the magical propeller that led his life to the dream life it is now.

“I went to Denmark for an exchange program to study electrical engineering but a one year break from my course work led to forever,” explained the humble Kipketer.

He took the break in order to concentrate in athletics and as the more he spent time in the tracks, the more he got convinced that this was his destiny.

“From then on my dream was to make history in sports and I am glad to have lived to it,” he adds.

This started unfolding in 1994 when he won 14 of the 16 races he had taken part in the 800m category. This glory led to his international recognition. The following year, he won 10 of 12 races, ran under 1:43 twice (becoming only the second man to break 1:43 twice in one season, after Joaquim Cruz who did it in 1984 & 1985) with his 1:42.87 being the world leader.

He remained undefeated throughout 1996, including wins over all three 800 meter medalists at the 1996 Olympic Games, and set a new personal best of 1:41.83 in Reiti at the end of the season, the fastest 800 meter time in the world in 12 years and only 0.1 short of the World Record.

In 1997 Kipketer was at the peak of his career after successfully changing his citizenship to Denmark in 1996. He went ahead to win  the 800m gold at the indoor world championships in France breaking the indoor world record time in the heats by nearly a second and beating Paul Ereng's WR 1:44.84 with his 1:43.96. This, he later slashed off yet another second to make a time of 1:42.67 in the finals.

On 7 July, he tied Sebastian Coe world record (1:41.73) for the 800 meters at a meeting in Stockholm, Sweden. The record had stood for sixteen years. He went on to break the record twice that year. It was in the same year that he made the 13yrs long 800m record which was broken by David Lekuta Rudisha by 0.02 seconds, running 1:41:09 (and a week later 1:41.01) in 2010.

His stay in the tracks was really successful until the time of retirement on the morning of August 16th 2005 at the age of 34yrs but this did not at any moment disinterest the Danish in the tracks. He then took to training young and up coming athletes with the IAAF.

“I now work in the Development department of the IAAF as an athletes coach. It feels fulfilling to give back to the society in this form and manner for it helps me in impacting positively to the next breed of athletes. I spend a lot of time moving around the world with an aim of positively impacting the young talented sports men and women through mentorship and training so as to help tap these talents and nurture them in the best way possible,” said Kipketer.

Asked for his opinion on Rudisha’s performance, he said “I have watched the youngster’s trend and I must say he is really good at what he does. He managed to break the 13yr record I had set back in 1997 and he surely does have a bright future ahead of him,” concluded the renowned athlete.

Personal bests:
Date                            Event        Venue                              Time
1994                            400 m                                               46.85
24 August 1997            800 m       Cologne,     Germany       1:41.11
February 1997              800 m       Paris,          France          1:42.67 (i)
20 February 2000        1000 m      Birmingham,  UK              2:14.96 (i).

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