Norwegians to beat Kenyans in middle distance running? No way!
It’s akin to Papua New Guinea defeating Brazil in football, or Eliud Kipchoge losing to a runner from Haiti in the marathon. But the huge historic and statistical records swaying lopsidedly towards Kenya’s advantage notwithstanding, “Team Cheruiyot” has left nothing to chance, promising their Norwegian rivals, “Team Ingebrigtsen,” a beautiful race when they clash Thursday virtually, over 2,000 metres.
The Kenyans are targeting a sub-four-minutes-50-seconds winning time in Tjhursday’s Maurie Plant Memorial.
“Team Cheruiyot,” (featuring current and former world 1,500 metres champions Timothy Cheruiyot and Elijah Manang’oi, along with Edwin Meli, Timothy Sein and Vincent Keter) has pitched at the Nyayo National Stadium while “Team Ingebrigtsen” are at Bislett Stadium in Oslo, Norway.
“Team Ingebrigtsen” comprises Norwegian Ingebrigtsen brothers Jakob, Filip and Henrik, and the two teams will battle over 2,000m.
They will be joined by fellow Norwegians Per Svela and Narve Gilje Nordås.
Manang’oi says even though altitude challenges will play a big role during the virtual race, they have what it takes to conquer the Norwegians brothers, just like they have done before.
The Kenyans will be running at 1,795 metres above sea level in Nairobi, while the Norwegians will be at just 23 metres above sea level in Oslo.
“It’s obvious the race will be tricky, but we have always been the best hence we shall beat the Norwegians. I am told they have been training well but that doesn’t worry us,” said Manang’oi.
Manang’oi, fondly known as the “Lion”, has not competed since winning the national 1,500m title on August 22 last year at the Nyayo National Stadium after an injury on his right leg recurred in training.
Cheruiyot noted that with the 2,000m taking five laps, they are working on starting fast and covering the first three laps at between 56 and 57 seconds per 400-metre lap.
“We want to do the last lap in 53 seconds and hence it will be great to finish under for four minutes and 50 seconds,” Cheruiyot, the 2018 and 2019 Diamond League champion said. “In fact, if we are to clock 4:44, the better.”
The 24-year-old Cheruiyot said they have had to change their training programme with more lapping to cover an additional 400m to 500m.
“We have added more long runs. We have also trained how to spread our energies across the distances,” said Cheruiyot, who tipped Meli to return some good times.
“Meli has been in camp while Manang’oi has put in at least a month of training. I just started two weeks ago but all has been well, having hit the track for the first time in a while,” said Cheruiyot.
Meli, the 2012 Barcelona World Under-20 Championships’ 800m bronze medalist, will be out to make a great mark, having recovered frustrating injuries over the years.
“I feel I am heading somewhere after I almost came to quitting athletics owing to injuries that frustrated me for many years,” said Meli, who described it as “a great honour” getting to train with the finest metric milers in the world.
“You can never go wrong when you are in the midst of two world champions. This is one of the most disciplined and focused group I have ever trained with.
“I can see some light at the end of the tunnel since I am gaining a lot here,” said Meli.
Indeed, that light could be a destruction of the Norwegian Vikings in tonight’s clash.