Rhonex Kipruto - Kenya's best chance for a 10000m medal at the Tokyo Olympics

Rhonex winning at the 2018 IAAF World U20 Championships
Rhonex winning at the 2018 IAAF World U20 Championships
D Dharmendra

Rhonex Kipruto first made a name for himself by winning gold in the 10000m event at the IAAF World U-20 Championships in 2018. He then went on to win bronze in the 2019 World Athletics Championships, finishing behind Yomif Kejelcha and Joshua Cheptegei.

Watch: Rhonex Kipruto finish 3rd in the 10000m event at the 2019 World Athletics Championships

Rhonex Kipruto burst onto the mainstream running scene with a magnificent world record of 26:24 in 10km on the road in Valencia in January 2020. The performance broke the previous record set by Joshua Cheptegei in the same city, just a month before.

By then, he was barely over 20 years of age. While that record has since been reclaimed by Cheptegei, Kipruto remains Kenya's great hope of regaining the elusive 10000m gold medal at the Tokyo Olympics, something they haven't done in over 50 years.

Rhonex Kipruto likely to be biggest challenge for Joshua Cheptegei

While Rhonex Kipruto is currently the top-ranked Kenyan in the World Athletics ranking in 10000m for 2021, the depth in Kenyan distance running is so incredible that it will be hard for anyone to even get a qualifying place on the national team. Kipruto is also likely to be in no hurry, given he has the sober presence of the legendary Brother Colm O'Connell, coach to multiple Olympic champions like David Rudisha and other world-class runners.

The 21-year-old is likely to be amongst the main challenges to Joshua Cheptegei's chances for an Olympic golden double alongside Jacob Kiplimo. The latter is just coming off an incredible 10K in Ostrava (May 2021) after his spectacular debut at the World Half Marathon Championships in October 2020.

Despite his young age, Rhonex Kipruto also has enough top-level racing experience, having been a part of the Kenyan team that was narrowly beaten by Uganda at the World Cross Country Championships in 2019. In that race, he finished in 6th place, a second behind Selemon Barega, who is likely to be one of his main competitors at Tokyo.

The World Cross Country Championships are a good form guide to raw athletic talent and racing acumen among others, since the current generation of carbon-plated shoes were yet to become mainstream in March 2019. Rhonex Kipruto is also one of his shoe sponsor's best bets in the virtual arms race of carbon-plated shoes that has caused several long-standing athletic records (including the 5000m and 10000m amongst both men and women) to tumble since the Rio Olympics.

The future holds a lot of promise for athletes like Kipruto and the distance running event at the Tokyo Olympics will be the first of many great tests for the youngster.

Also read: Brother Colm O'Connell - David Rudisha's coach

Edited by Sudeshna Banerjee
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