Moses Kipsiro winning in Belfast (© Mark Shearman)
For more than 40 years, the world has marvelled at the amazing endurance talent out of East Africa with Kenya and Ethiopia leading the way. Tanzania, Somalia and Eritrea have also made their mark on the international scene but one nation also making a growing impression is Uganda.
At the 2005 World Championshipsin Helsinki, Dorcus Inzikuru made history as the first Ugandan global gold medallist in an endurance event as she won the women’s 3000m steeplechase title. At the same championships, Boniface Kiprop missed a medal by one place in the men’s 10,000m, matching the fourth place he achieved at the 2004 Olympic Games. The former world junior champion finally got into the senior medals taking the Commonwealth Games title in 2006, a feat that Inzikuru also achieved in her specialist event.
Now a new Ugandan distance-running star could be emerging in the affable Moses Kipsiro, who has so far enjoyed a flawless winter.
Last Saturday Kipsiro showed all the tools of a champion to triumph in the IAAF cross country permit meeting at Belfast’s Stormont Castle. He ran a patient race in Northern Ireland, refusing to panic when Kenyan Patrick Makau built up a slight lead with a lap to go and later used his devastating kick to out-sprint Fabiano Joseph of Tanzania to secure victory.
Yet to keen followers of the sport, his victory had come as no real surprise after a winter of much success.
Kipsiro only started running seriously four years ago and in his first major international foray at the 2003 World Cross Country Championships in Lausanne he finished an encouraging 18th in the junior race aged just 16.
However, knee problems restricted his development and he had to settle for 21st at the 2005 World Cross in St Etienne/St Galmier.
However, a more formalised training programme alongside Kiprop has reaped dividends and 2006 proved a far more successful year.
He finished a respectable seventh in the 5000m at the Commonwealth Games and his form improved during the summer months as he clocked 13:01.88 for the 5000m in Stockholm and claimed the gold medal in the 10,000m at the African Championships in Mauritius.
Then last November he scored double cross-country success in France before taking an impressive 8km road race victory in 22:27 on New Year’s Eve in Trier, Germany.
Kipsiro, 20, is reluctant to say what he hopes to achieve at the World Cross Country Championships in Mombasa in March but his agent Ricky Simms believes a top-five position is not impossible.
“He will definitely be looking for a top-ten finish and he can get into the top five,” said Simms. “He’s got a very dangerous kick and with Bekele maybe not in the race, who knows?”
But despite his unquestioned ability on the country, his main ambitions remain on the track.
Kipsiro himself said: “I prefer the track, I find it easier. My main aim is to run the 3000m and 5000m this summer.”
Simms also believes progression is likely on the track and said: “It would be nice to see him in that 12:50-12:55 range for 5000m, but a time under 12:55 would be a big advance.”
Steve Landells for the IAAF