News24 Nov 2012

Barcelona Press Points: Kip Keino and Peter Snell


Kip Keino and Peter Snell in Barcelona (© Philippe Fitte)

24 November 2012 – Barcelona, Spain – New Zealand’s three-time Olympic middle-distance champion Peter Snell and Kenya’s 1968 and 1972 Olympic 1500m and 3000m Steeplechase champion, respectively, appeared at the press point at the IAAF Centenary Gala in Barcelona. These were some of the highlights.

Peter, you were the last man to achieve the 800m and 1500m double at the Olympic Games in 1964. Can it ever be repeated?

PS: I spoke to Steve Ovett last night and gave him my thanks! Steve folied Sebastian’s (Coe) chance of doing that in 1980. It is a tough double, six races in eight days. It is also a lot of fun doing double because you are in the stadium a lot.

Any reason why New Zealand endurance runners have not been able to repeat the success they enjoyed in the 1960s and 1970s?

PS: New Zealand runners got away from coaching methods that had proved successful. My coach, Arthur Lydiard, was controversial in that he introduced distance running for middle-distance runners. I think some of the runners that followed felt it was an old fashioned training method. They followed the advice of other coaches and didn’t believe in Lydiard’s methods, I’m sure that is the main reason.

Kip, people look up to you as the father of Kenyan distance running, but also for your personality, flair and charisma.

KK: Some athlete listen to what you tell them. In Kenya the athletes are working on the team spirit. We work on group training with one or two coaches to help. The spirit is very high among Kenyan runners.

What are your thoughts on David Rudisha and what he accomplished at the Olympic Games

PS: A highlight, for me, last night was meeting David and telling him what an awesome race it was. The Olympics finals (for 800m) are often never that fast and sometimes I think I could have won that (Olympic final) or medaled in that race based on my fastest time, but David, was so impressive. He’s also such a nice guy.

KK: He did his very best. He was prepared mentally and physically and he ran his personal best. It was a great run.

The Kenyan performance was not so good at the Olympic Games, just two gold medals in athletics. Why was that the case?

KK: I think we had a great team and we selected the best team for the Games. For me the athletes should have come to London at least ten days before the event to get used to the conditions and to acclimatise. Many athletes only got in three of four days before the event. The timing was not right. This is a lesson for the runners, the federation, the coaches and the agents.

Athletics is now a very scientific sport, do the Kenyan athletes embrace that enough?

KK: We have to change our training, put our heads together and sit down with Athletics Kenya and plan ahead. We have a lot of talent, but we have to forget about London and think ahead to what we are going to do for the next four years. We need to work with our athletes towards the big events.

PS: I’m a sports scientist with a PhD in physiology and I’ve got to say I’m underwhelmed by the contribution that sports scientists are making to middle-distance running. Armchair coaches, mainly in the US, with theoretical knowledge can’t understand why 800m runners can’t do distance training, so I’m not impressed.

Is the 1500m and mile as relevant today as it used to be?

PS: No, I’m bored by sprints. I think middle-distance running and the 1500m will retain its importance because it reflects speed, endurance and tactics. That’s why I like the 800m so much. I think the fascination with speed, endurance, interaction and the right tactics will make it the event to watch.

Steve Landells for the IAAF