ITEN, Kenya, June 29 (Reuters) - Kenya’s double world champion marathon runner Abel Kirui has set his sights on breaking the Olympic record at this year’s London Games.
Kirui, who won world titles in Berlin and Daegu in 2009 and 2011, said he was peaking after a period of “perfect” training and Olympic preparation.
“Training this time is actually a great improvement (on the world championships),” Kirui told Reuters in Iten, a small town some 2,400 metres above sea level in western Kenya’s Rift Valley.
“In the world championships I faced some small problems,” Kirui said. “I was with a knee problem most of the time, so I was training like two times a week. It was not consistent like now. So I believe this time is quite perfect.”
Kirui finished sixth in April’s London Marathon, but he expects an improved performance at the Olympics.
“We are actually aiming to break the Olympic record,” the 30-year-old said. “We want to do better than the late (Samuel) Wanjiru.”
Wanjiru, who died at the age of 24, won Kenya’s first men’s marathon gold in Beijing in 2008 and set the Olympic record with a time of 2:06:32.
However, in May 2011 he was killed after falling from the first-floor balcony of his home.
Kenya’s depth of talent in the marathon event was illustrated in April, when world record holder Patrick Makau, who ran a time of 2:03:38 in the 2011 Berlin Marathon, was left out of the Olympic team.
Wilson Kipsang, winner of the 2012 London Marathon, and Emmanuel Mutai, who won the same event in 2011, were selected alongside Kirui.
In Iten, where most of Kenya’s middle and long-distance runners are based for high-altitude training, the trio pace up and down Rift Valley’s gentle hills and can be seen running alongside the town’s dusty red roads, where cows graze on lush green grass and many children walk to school barefoot.
Kirui, who sees the both his compatriots and the Ethiopian runners as the biggest threat to his medal chances, said no athlete is likely to break Makau’s world record in London.
“I don’t think it is possible, because the course actually is not good for going for the world record, because it has a lot of corners,” Kirui said.
“I was told it was about 90 turns, so for world record I can not imagine it.” (Editing by Matt Barker)