pa.press.net
Updated: Thu, 31 May 2012 19:49:38 GMT | By pa.press.net

Kenya: Abel Kirui

Born: 04/06/1982


Kenya's Abel Kirui wins the men's marathon at the 2011 World Championships. (© Press Association)

Kenya's Abel Kirui wins the men's marathon at the 2011 World Championships.

Born: 04/06/1982

Place of birth: Nandi, Kenya

Event: Athletics

Previous Olympics: 0

Previous medals: 0

Kenya's Rift Valley has produced some of the world's best long-distance runners.

In villages across the region, groups of aspiring Olympians train together on the hillsides and dirt roads. Running is a national obsession so the competition is fierce, and scores of Kenyan athletes have spent their childhood dreaming of becoming the nation's next sporting hero.

Not so Abel Kirui. While the future marathon runner had a passion for athletics at school, he never trained seriously during his youth. He had his sights set on a career in the police instead.

In 2001, he applied to join the Administration Police (AP), a security unit that belongs to the Kenyan government. And such was Kirui's status that just getting a steady job was seen as an achievement, never mind becoming a two-time world champion.

"While I was in the queue during recruitment, I prayed to God to help me become the first among my classmates to secure formal employment," Kirui has said.

After passing the aptitude test, Kirui beat a huge field in a recruitment race to earn a place with the AP. Despite not training seriously, he had clearly developed a level of fitness and ability as he had run plenty at school and while herding his family's goats, as is the custom for young boys in the Nandi community.

Sometimes he woke at 2am to carry out household chores before going to school, so with such an upbringing, he had little trouble during his training with the AP.

Up to that point, athletics had been a means to an end for Kirui. It was not until he had achieved his aim of joining the AP that he contemplated running competitively.

He feared asking his superiors for permission to engage in full-time athletics training. Had he caught them on a bad day, his Olympic dream could have been over before it had even begun. Thankfully he didn't.

Kirui joined the ranks of Olympic hopefuls training on his doorstep and he not only had the dedication to catch them up but to emerge from the pack.

In 2006, he entered the Berlin marathon as a pacemaker and finished ninth. He then finished second behind close friend Haile Gebrselassie the following year to establish himself as a major contender on the world stage.

Faith, as well as fate, has been an important factor in Kirui's journey, as besides praying to God, he also asked for his grandmother's blessing before applying for the AP, before becoming an athlete and before his first World Championships win in 2009.

And how his prayers have been answered. Career progression has mirrored his sporting success as, after winning in Berlin in 2009, he was promoted from constable to sergeant.

Then, after defending his world title in Daegu last year, he was promoted to chief inspector.

It remains to be seen what lies in store for the Rift Valley's latest star when he returns from London 2012.