Feature26 Jul 2017

The sky's the limit for world U18 champion Manangoi


George Manangoi wins the 1500m at the IAAF World U18 Championships Nairobi 2017 (© Getty Images)

After winning Kenya's first gold of the IAAF World U18 Championships Nairobi 2017, George Manangoi was not surprised.

"I planned this race since March," the Kenyan teenager said. "I expected to win the gold."

He did in in style, too, taking the 1500m title by over a second in 3:47.53, even though he said the absence of his teammate Dominic Kipkemboi, who had to withdraw from the final due to injury, affected him.

"We wanted to make the pace fast," Manangoi said. "But I couldn't do it alone."

As it turned out, he ran more than three seconds slower than the time he achieved at the Kenyan U18 championships this year. He spent most the race behind his Ethiopian rivals, but then came his kick.

"When I saw what the race was like, I just waited until the last 150 metres to start my kick," he explained. "I felt great, because the crowd were giving me strength. My parents were here, my brothers and sisters, the whole world was here. My teammates were also here and I told myself I could not let them down."

Regarding his siblings, one has been very important to Manangoi's career. It is his older brother Elijah, now 24, who has been one of the world's best 1500m runners since 2015. With a personal best of 3:29.67 and a silver medal from the 2015 World Championships, he is the perfect role model for his little brother.

"My brother is my mentor. He has been giving me advice. Just before the race he told me, 'do your best in the last 150 metres and you can make it.' I did not want to let him down."

It is also thanks to Elijah that George became a runner. Amazingly, he has only been training seriously since March of last year.

"My brother told me, 'let's start training'. At school I was not very interested in athletics, but he inspired me. Together with my coach, they have been encouraging me and advising me on how to train."

He has trained together with his brother and Timothy Cheruiyot, another top Kenyan 1500m runner. The training group has now been broken up temporarily, since both Elijah Manangoi and Cheruiyot are part of the Kenyan team preparing for the World Championships.

What does the future hold for the new world U18 champion?

"Next year I'm going to prepare for the World U20 Championships. I'm going to train to get the gold there."

Manangoi has already made his European debut this year, achieving a time of 3:42.35 in Rehlingen in June. He hopes to have more races on the international circuit, and in time, to make the national team for major senior championships.

"The rest will come with time. World Championships and Olympic Games, I want to make that as well."

Pawel Jackowski for the IAAF