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Ineos 1:59 Challenge: Kenya’s Kipchoge says ready to “break the two-hour barrier”3 minutes read

Kipchoge, 34, went close to breaking the two-hour barrier when he was 25 seconds too slow in another staged run

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Ineos 1:59 Challenge: Kenya's Kipchoge says ready to "break the two-hour barrier"
Kenya's Eliud Kipchoge poses for photographers prior to his press conference in Vienna on October 10, 2019, prior to his attempt to break the two-hour barrier on the October 12, 2019 marathon in Vienna. (AFP)

As he prepares for more assaults on the peaks of marathon running, Eliud Kipchoge stays true to an austere lifestyle despite his fame and fortune.

The Kenyan superstar, who holds the marathon world record and is reigning Olympic champion, hopes to become the first man to run the 42.195 kilometres in under two hours on Saturday in Vienna.

Despite his status and wealth, the 2018 world athlete of the year leads a monastic existence at a spartan running camp in Kenya’s Rift Valley.

With the 30 or so runners living at the camp, Kipchoge sets off at dawn for the first of two daily training sessions. 

The rest of his time is spent resting, reading and eating, with a focus on simple Kenyan food staples. 

“I don’t think I am different. I am trying my best to live a modest life,” he said.

“I am a simple person, I try to stay calm and focus on what I do. There are no distractions.”

The special event in Vienna, sponsored by British conglomerate Ineos, has been given a catchy marketing title: the “1:h59 Challenge”.

Kipchoge, 34, went close to breaking the two-hour barrier when he was 25 seconds too slow in another staged run, at Italy’s Monza race circuit in 2017. 

That time was not sanctioned by the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) because a vehicle and a squad of pacemakers aided Kipchoge in controlling his speed.

The same conditions will prevail for the Vienna attempt, preventing any potential world record from being validated.

‘Landing on the moon’ –

“This is about history,” he said. “It’s about leaving a legacy. It’s about inspiring people,” he said of the Vienna event.

“My main message to the 7.5 billion people in the world is that no human is limited.”

“Breaking the two-hour marathon barrier would be like man landing on the moon,” he said.

He added that it would “show to the world that when you focus on your goal, when you work hard and when you believe in yourself, anything is possible.”

Kipchoge was born in Kapsisiywa, Nandi County in western Kenya. 

At 18, he beat two legendary runners, the Moroccan Hicham El Guerrouj and Ethiopia’s Kenenisa Bekele, to became 5,000-metre world champion in Paris in 2003.

In 2012, after failing to qualify for the London Olympics, Kipchoge switched to marathon running.

With his compact silhouette and unwavering stride as the miles tick by, Kipchoge is perfectly suited to the longer distance. 

Out of 12 marathons, he has lost just once: in his 2013 debut in Berlin, against compatriot Wilson Kipsang, who broke the world record that day. 

Kipchoge set his world record, 2hr 1min 39sec, in the Berlin race in 2018.

He had met coach Patrick Sang in 2001 and joined the fabled running stable in the foothills of the Rift Valley a year later.

‘Sense of sacrifice’ –

Kipchoge enjoys no privileges at the Kaptagat camp where he is nicknamed the “philosopher” for his love of reading. The camp is a few hours’ walk from his home village, Eldoret. On weekends, he returns to his family.

Coach Sang, an Olympic runner-up in the 3,000m steeplechase in 1992, remains impressed with his student’s determination.

“He has continued to amaze me with his self-sacrifice and dedication. He has given 100 per cent of his ability and total commitment to what he does,” he told reporters.

The champion’s often mischievous gaze hardens when the subject of doping arises. Kipchoge has never been caught up in scandal, but the reputation of his Kenyan compatriots has raised questions.

Kipchoge, who will defend his Olympic title in Tokyo next year, is fixated on Saturday’s challenge.

“I have visualised it. I have put it in my heart and my mind that I will break the two-hour barrier,” he said.

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Aston Villa sign Tanzania captain Mbwana Samatta

27-year-old becomes first Tanzanian to play in the English Premier League

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English Premier league side Aston Villa have completed the signing of Tanzanian striker Mbwana Samatta for £10m on a four-and-half-year deal, subject to a work permit and international clearance.

The 27-year-old scored 10 goals for Genk in all competitions this season including a goal against Liverpool at Anfield in the UEFA Champions League group stage.

Villa manager Dean Smith hailed the signing “I’m really pleased we have managed to bring Mbwana to the club, he has scored goals throughout his career and I’m looking forward to working with him.”

Samatta makes history as the first Tanzanian to play in the Premier League but will be unavailable for Villa’s home match against Watford on Tuesday.

Samatta who is captain of the Tanzanian national side expressed his joy at making the move “I’m so excited, it’s a huge step for me in my career. It’s a big step for the country too. Everyone was looking for a Tanzanian to play in the Premier League.

“I know a lot about Aston Villa. I used to watch Gabby Agbonlahor when he was here.”

Samatta is Villa’s third signing of the January transfer window following loan signings of midfielder Danny Drinkwater from Chelsea and goalkeeper Pepe Reina from AC Milan.

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Kenyan U-20 rugby star Brighetti switches to Italy

Michele Brighetti set to feature in 6 Nations Tourney for European giants

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Kenya’s under-20 Michele Brighetti is set to switch sides and make his debut at the 2020 Six Nations U-20 Championships, following his call-up to the Italian 24-man Under 20 side. Brighetti has featured in the Kenya U-20 squad, known as Chipu, that played at the World Rugby Under-20 Trophy in Brazil in July 2019.

Brighetti’s Italian ancestry and the fact that he has not played for the Kenyan senior rugby team means that he enjoys some latitude to switch national sides. According to World Rugby regulations on switching unions (Regulation 8), a player who has not featured in a senior national side may appear for a different country if he meets the eligibility criteria to do so.

The player seeking to change national sides would need to be born in the country he seeks to play for or have at least one parent or grandparent born in the country in question. The third and last criteria would be that he has ‘completed thirty six consecutive months of residence immediately preceding the time of playing’.

Michele is the son of former Kenya Scorpions international and Nondies Rugby Club player, Marco Brighetti. The youngster left Kenya in 2019 to join the Accademia Nazionale “Ivan Francescato” in Italy.

The school is an elite player development rugby academy in Italy run within the Federazione Italiana Rugby: They customarily select the best U-16, U-18 and U-20 players who are considered good prospects and can eventually be developed into future senior national team players.

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Kenya’s Malkia Strikers to Make Triumphant Return to Olympics After 16-year Absence.

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Kenya’s female volleyball side, the Malkia Strikers, are slated to make a triumphant return to the Olympics following a long, cold 16-year absence. They secured their place at the 2020 Summer Games after trouncing Nigeria in three sets, 25-15, 25-21 and 25-12 in Yaoundé, Cameroon on Thursday evening.

The Kenyan team last qualified for the Olympics in 2004 and needed the win against Nigeria to clinch the single available spot for Africa and one of only twelve team slots at the women’s volleyball games in Tokyo.

The final win marks an end to their stellar performance in Yaoundé, where they have won all their games against Egypt, Botswana and arch-rivals, Cameroon- Africa’s flagbearer at the last Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro in 2016.

The team featured exceptional talent such as Kenya Pipeline’s Sharon Chepchumba, who was named Africa’s best attacker at the Africa Women’s Club Volleyball Championships held in Egypt in March 2019. Just three years ago, she was named the Most Valuable Player at the Kenya national and East Africa secondary school games.

Kenya now joins seven other teams (Japan, United States, Brazil, China, Russia, Italy and Serbia) to have qualified so far. Four more slots remain to be filled from Asia, North America, South America and Europe: The winners will be determined by various qualifier games currently underway until 12th January 2020.

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