When chosen in the Kenyan team to run the 2,000 metres steeplechase at the 2001 World Youth Championships in Debrecen, Hungary, 15-year-old Firmin Kipruto needed a passport.
But when he was applying for a birth certificate to obtain his first travel document, Firmin was mistakenly written as Brimin by a clerk. He has been identified officially as “Brimin” ever since.
With a wild card tacked under his arm, Olympic and World steeplechase champion Brimin Kipruto, will be running for fame while his rivals engage in a bruising battle to pick the tickets to the Kenyan team to the Berlin World Championships next month.
With a strong challenge directed to the age-old Kenya dominance from Mahiedine Mekhissi-Benabbad of France, Kipruto, Ezekiel Kemboi, the 2004 Olympic champion, Africa champion Richard Matelong and Paul Kipsiele Koech are all expected to star and tackle the French challenge.
Kipruto was an underdog in Osaka, with all attention put on the then Olympic champion Ezekiel Kemboi. However, his strong sprint after the final water jump left his opponents struggling to catch up as he clinched his first gold medal in 8:13.82 edging out Kemboi (8:16.94) to second while Richard Matelong (8:17.59) took bronze.
In the women’s steeplechase, head coach Julius Kirwa is hopeful at least two athletes will make the cut. Olympic medalist Eunice Jepkorir and world junior champion Christine Kambua Muyanga will be out of action.
Jepkorir is expectant while Muyanga is nursing an ankle injury.
Kenya’s hopes now lie with Africa steeplechase record holder Ruth Bosibori and 2006 world junior champion Caroline Jepkurui Tuikong.
Bosibori, a police officer, and banks on the best time of 9:17.35 she posted at the Beijing Olympics and will be up against Nandi’s AIC Kosirai schoolgirl Tuikong, who basks in 10:01.30.
With a fourth place at the Osaka World Championships, the 21-year-old Bosibori still posted a world junior record of 9:25.25 and was sixth at the Olympics to attain her 9:17.35 best time. She finished third in 9:24.38 at the world athletics final in Stuttgart, Germany.
Among those drafted in the steeplechase start list are Kenya’s first world junior champion Gladys Kemboi, world junior silver medalist Elizabeth Mueni, Commonwealth Youth Games 1,500 metres finalists Purity Cherotich and Fancy Cherotich. Mercy Wanjiku Njoroge, Jane Murage and Milka Chemos of Police are others stars to watch.
In the men’s race, Kipruto, who turns 25 on July 30, is assured of a ticket to Berlin as the defending champion and coach Julius Kirwa is only concerned with the two other athletes to accompany him.