The theory that Kenyan long distance runners could become Nordic skiers was
tried out at the last winter Olympics, and found to be little more than a
gimmick. After John Kelais win in the Standard Chartered Singapore Marathon on
Sunday, we might have a long wait for the first world class Kenyan triathlete.
Kelai is already close to being a world-class duathlete - running and
cycling - and is trying to improve his swimming, to make up the triathlon set.
But his win in his second home of Singapore means that he may concentrate on
running. "Id really like to run one of the big European marathons next,
perhaps London," he said after his victory. Kelai, 26 is already unusual
in that he is one of the rare runners from the Turkana tribe, nomads from the
poor and arid northern part of Kenya. The most famous Turkana is Paul Ereng,
1988 Olympic 800 metres champion. "Paul used to be my coach," said
Kelai, who was discovered by a Singapore triathlon group in 2001, when they
were training in Eldoret, the heartland of Kenyan running.
Kelai now spends six months of the year in Singapore with Bob Bowness,
founder of the Tribob triathlon group. Members were much in evidence on the
marathon course on Sunday, wearing John Kelai Support Group tee-shirts.
"John has quickly taken to the bike and is within reach of duathlon
world-class times," said Bowness, "but after this run, he may be
better off concentrating on the marathon". Kelais first marathon was in
this same race last year, when he finished seventh. He won the Penang
International Marathon in neighbouring Malaysia in May, but all three of his
races have been in heat and high humidity, hence his 2hr 19min 02sec winning
time on Sunday.
Kelai earned US$20,000 for his win on Sunday, and says he and his wife Susan
will use it on the education of their two girls, Faith, aged three, and Karina,
just one month old.
Singapore Marathon Results
The Kenyan colonisation of the athletics world continues. John Kelai won in
his home town yesterday, when he took the Standard Chartered Singapore Marathon
in 2hr 19min 02sec.
Kelai has been living on and off in Singapore for the last 18 months since
coming to the city-state to make his marathon debut - he was seventh in last
years race in 2.23.46.
Kelai tracked several of his Kenyan compatriots, who were early leaders in
the Sunday dawn race, before taking over after 37 kilometres, and winning by
180 metres from David Simukwo, 2.19.28, and Barnabas Kenduiywo, 2.20.35.
"At 32 kilometres, I felt so bad that I almost dropped out," said
Kelai, 26, "but I saw the leaders were struggling. At 35k I felt OK, and
put in an effort to catch them. I was a bit nervous of my Kenyan friends, but
it was an advantage to me to know the course so well". Unlike several of
his compatriots who have switched nationality recently, Kelai says he has no
plans to apply for Singapore nationality, but he has a solid training base here
with a triathlon group, and he recently placed fourth in a high class duathlon
(cycling and running) Kelai dedicated the victory to his month old daughter,
Karina. He has another daughter, Faith, aged three. Kelai said he would use the
US$20,000 prize money, "for the education of my children, and to improve
my living conditions in Kenya". He was formerly a farm-worker in Eldoret,
the heartland of Kenyan distance running.
The much-vaunted Tanzanians - 2002 Commonwealth winner, Francis Naali, and
1998 medallists, Simon Mrashani and Geway Suja - were never in evidence, after
complaining of difficulties adjusting to time difference and Singapores high
humidity which affects times.
Wang Yu of China was unconcerned in the womens race. The 19 year old from
Beijing led all the way in only her third marathon, to win in 2.43.51. The
Poles, Aniela Nikiel and Violeta Uryga were second and third, in 2.46.48 and
STANDARD CHARTERED SINGAPORE MARATHON 2003
BIB NAME COUNTRY TIME PRIZE(US$)
1 84 JOHN KELAI KENYA 2.19.02 20,000
2 08 DAVID SIMUKWO KEN 2.19.28 12,000
3 10 BARNABAS KENDUIYWO (KEN) 2.20.35 7,000
4 46 ANURUDHA COORAY (SRI) 2.21.23 5,000
5 73 ABRAHAM TANDOI KEN 2.23.29 3,000
6 15 JOSEPHAT NDETI KEN 2.24.26 1,250
7 59 DAVID K MENJO KEN 2.24.47 1,250
8 70 SIMON SAWE KEN 2.25.42 800
9 50 ZHU RONGHUA CHINA 2.25.44 800
10 07 JOHN ROTICH KEN 2.26.32 800
1 67 WANG YU CHINA 2.43.57 20,000
2 20 ANIELA NIKIEL POL 2.46.48 12,000
3 18 VIOLETA URYGA POL 2.47.55 7,000
4 63 AI SUGIHARA JAP 2.48.14 5,000
5 21 NATALYA GALUSHKO BLS 2.52.45 3,000
6 26 LILIAN CHELIMO KEN 2.53.59 1,250
7 28 LARISSA MALIKOVA RUS 2.55.05 1,250
8 24 OLPHER ORUKE KEN 2.55.46 800
9 09 SUJEEWA NILMINI SRI 2.56.46 800
10 19 LYDIA VASSIELVSKAYA RUS 3.01.48 800