Nairobi, July 6 (IANS) Uganda’s Olympic marathon title holder Stephen Kiprotich is fired up to take on the challenge of runaway favourite and Kenyan training partner Eliud Kipchoge, in the streets of Rio de Janeiro next month.
Kiprotich, who is also the Moscow 2013 world champion and Kipchoge — the two-time London and Berlin marathon winner — train together at the Global Sports camp in Kaptagat at the heartland of Kenya’s Rift Valley, reports Xinhua.
The Ugandan is looking forward to defending his title against his 31-year-old mentor and it will be the first time the pair will be racing against each other as marathoners.
Kiprotich and Kipchoge last competed in the same race at the second heat of the men’s 5000 metres at the 2007 Osaka Worlds in Japan where the Kenyan made the finals by running 13:33.37 minutes and went on to win silver as the Ugandan crashed out of the competition.
“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 still exist and the only thing I’ m going there to do is defend my title,” Kiprotich added on Tuesday.
For four days in a week, the Ugandan marathon star wakes up at the crack of dawn to train with Kipchoge and another Kenyan Rio 2016 marathoner, the 2012 Boston champion, Wesley Korir with the trio harbouring individual intentions to carry the biggest prize in the sport in Brazil.
“Kipchoge is my mentor and I’m happy that he is also in the Olympic 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,” Kiprotich said.
“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,” the 27-year-old added.
“After all, the marathon will have the best marathoners from various countries,” added the London 2012 winner who succeeded Beijing 2008 champion, Kenyan Samuel Wanjiru.
Kiprotich is to return to 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 hours.
He went to the Chinese World Championships on the back of running a Uganda record of 2:06:33 hours in finishing second at the Tokyo Marathon.
This season, the Ugandan star is heading to the Olympics having run 2:07:46 hours for fourth at the same race on February 28.