Inspired by Nicholas Bett, hurdler Were goes for glory in Budapest

Wiseman Were trains at Moi International Sports, Centre, Kasarani on July 5, 2023.

Photo credit: Chris Omollo | Nation Media Group

What you need to know:

  • Bett made history as the first Kenyan and the only other African to have won a world title in 400 metres hurdles when he stunned the world with victory in 2015 in Beijing.

A deluge of mixed feelings shrouded his mind right from the good memories he shared with his role model, the late Nicholas Bett, to the treacherous and winding journey to his maiden world championships.

Bett made history as the first Kenyan and the only other African to have won a world title in 400 metres hurdles when he stunned the world with victory in 2015 in Beijing.

Zambian legend Samuel Matete gave Africa its maiden victory at the 1991 Tokyo World Athletics Championships.

Perhaps June 24, this year, is a day that the Kenya Defence Forces hurdler Wiseman Were will always treasure and live to remember. It was the end of a long journey that started last year yet another great step towards his ultimate dream.

After several attempts that saw him refine his speed at the bends with the world indoor season in France and a tour of South Africa and Botswana, Were finally hit the World Athletics Championship qualifying standards.

Were warmed up with 49.89 seconds in the semi-finals before exploding unchallenged to retain his national 400m hurdles title in personal best 48.52, beating the qualifying stands of 48.70.

Were is the only Kenyan qualifier in the event for the World Championships, and with no competitors, he will race in 100m and 200m at this weekend’s national trials.

“Qualifying brought mixed feelings for me after I remembered the long journey that started last year during the Commonwealth Games,” Were said.

"I travelled outside the country but it took an event in Nairobi to qualify.
“It made me recall the sessions and good times we shared with Bett, who told us that God can take you from nothing to something great,” said Were.

Bett passed away in a road accident on August 8, 2018.

“Nothing is impossible in this world if you continue working hard,” said Were, who clocked 49.09 to miss out on the world championship last year in Oregon, United States of America.

Were, however, made his debut at the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham, England last year where he reached the final to finish fourth.

After competing in 400m at three races in France in February, Were won his 400m hurdles at South Africa Athletics Grand Prix 1 in Pretoria in 49.23 on April 12, finished third in Grand Prix 2 in 49.78 on April 16 before winning Grand Prix 3 in 49.78 on April 19.

Were settled for third at the Botswana Golden Grand Prix in 49.29 on April 29.

“My time kept on improving and I knew that it’s a matter of time I will make it,” said Were.

“However, I had to balance my steps within the hurdles even though my hurdles execution was good.”

“I maintained 14 strides throughout unlike before when I alternated between 15 and 14 strides,” explained the 25-year-old Were.

“I also managed to attack the seventh hurdle that had proved problematic for many years.”

Were now dreams of reaching the final at the world championships besides lowering his time to 47 seconds.

“If I have qualified for the world event then I need to keep repeating it and even go beyond. Nothing is hard if you keep praying for good health and working hard," explained Were. “I trust the process and I believe I will make it."