Kenya’s Emmanuel Korir performance in London has left many fans dreaming of how fast he can run, but the 23-year-old says this week’s African Championships in Asaba, Nigeria, will be a major test.
The Kenyan excelled at the London Diamond League a week ago clocking a time of 1:42:05 in the men’s 800m, which stands out as the fastest in the world since 2012 and puts him sixth on the world all-time list, a front-running exhibition reminiscent of David Rudisha’s world record, Olympic gold medal-winning run on the same track five years earlier.
“I accosted Nijel Amos to see if he could run at the front to maybe like 600 meters, but he was telling me that he wasn’t feeling good,” explains Korir.
Amos had run 1:42:14 in Monaco in early July. “So I had to take a risk. I was feeling like maybe I could lose the race, but I thought, ‘no, let’s try it: I’m going to hold it’. And that is how it happened.”
Now his focus is on the Africa championships, which starts on Wednesday in Asaba, Nigeria. “Heats, semis and finals, it will not be easy,” says Korir, pondering a rematch with Botswana’s Nijel Amos. “1:42 is not satisfying. If I get some guys who are strong and can push me all the way to the finish line, it will be crazy.” Korir won the Kenyan title at the 400m distance.
Korir built a reputation on the U.S. collegiate circuit, where he went on an unbeaten run that lasted a year and included a world indoor best of 1:14:47 over 600m, and indoor and outdoor NCAA titles. That streak didn’t stop away from U.S. shores.
First he won the Kenyan trials, beating the likes of 2016 IAAF Diamond League champion Ferguson Rotich, to confirm his spot at the World Championships. Then, on his IAAF Diamond League debut, he destroyed a world-class field by more than a second in Monaco sizzling to a 1:43.10, the fastest time of 2017.
But the rounds in London proved to be too difficult. Although he won his heat, in the next day’s semis he came in fourth.
His undefeated season and World Championships campaign were wrecked. Talking from massage table 11 months on from that ignominy, his feelings couldn’t be more different. “Last year, when I was in London, I was so disappointed. But right now? I think I like it,” Korir recalls.