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Irish flair in Kenya’s running prosperity

Geographically, Jamaica and Kenya are poles apart. Even in the athletics world, the Caribbean nation is known for its sprinting prowess, while the East African country is home to middle and long distance runners.

other Updated: Jun 05, 2011 00:58 IST
Navneet Singh

Geographically, Jamaica and Kenya are poles apart. Even in the athletics world, the Caribbean nation is known for its sprinting prowess, while the East African country is home to middle and long distance runners.

But despite different backgrounds, Jamaica’s world record holder Usian Bolt and Kenya’s Kmbishei Titus Kipjunga, winner of 2010 Bangalore World 10k, share a common bond — and it’s an Irish connection.

The Irish athletics manager — Ricky Simms — is the man responsible for putting them on the world map. He chalks their annual plans and decides events they should compete in. The Irishman, in exchange, takes a neat cut of 15-20 per cent of the athletes’ prize money. The Kenyan runner, who is here to defend his title on Sunday, owes a lot to Simms.

Apart from Bolt and Titus, his clients include Olympic 400m champion Christine Ohuruogu, triple jump world champion Phillips Idowu and Australian hurdler Jana Rawlinson. He also has a phalanx of leading East African distance runners as his client.

From an obscure runner in 2007, says Titus, the athletics manager brought him into the limelight. Soon after Simms took the Kenyan runner under his wings in March 2008, a leading sports company signed Titus, assuring him a steady supply of running kit.

Under Simms’ guidance, the 21-year-old Kenyan made rapid progress in both track races as well as road circuit. Coming to Bangalore for the second time, Titus is a respected runner known for his strong finish. Recently, in Marseille 10k, Titus’ winning time of 27:32 was faster than Bangalore’s course record of 27:54. Going by current form, he is fancied to retain his title and win a purse of $ 21,000.

His main competitors apart from fellow Kenyans will be the Ethiopians who have also arrived here in large numbers. With weather being cool in this part of the country, Titus is elated at the prospect for posting a fast time. However, he didn’t disclose his Sunday race plans, saying, “In Kenya, there is a custom not to predict.” But elite foreign manager, Ian Ladbrooke, did make a prophesy. “Titus is the man to watch. He is stronger than last year,” he said.

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(The writer’s trip has been sponsored by Procam)