‘Lion’ Manang’oi just can’t wait to maul Ingebrigtsen brothers

 Elijah Manangoi (right) leads Team Cheruiyot members during practice at Nyayo National Stadium in this photo taken on May 26, 2020. PHOTO | JEFF ANGOTE | NATION MEDIA GROUP

What you need to know:

  • Both teams will start with five runners and will have to finish with three.
  • The winner of the match will be the team with the best overall time for three runners.

The “Lion” is hungrier than before.

Only a Diamond League title and, perhaps, an Olympic Games gold medal will get rid of the hunger pangs.

But first things first. Commonwealth 1,500 metres champion Elijah Manang’oi needs to get his body back to imperious shape, as a matter of priority.

That is why in the virtual Maurie Plant Memorial Race on June 11 – part of the events lined up at the “Impossible Games” - will be crucial for Manang’oi, who will aim to test his claws competitively for the first time since August last year.

Manang’oi forms part of “Team Cheruiyot” that will take on “Team Ingebrigtsen” of the famous Norwegian brothers, Jakob, Henrik and Filip, in the Maurie Plant Memorial’s Kenya vs Norway duel.

Also in the metric mile supremos’ team are Edwin Meli, Timothy Sein and Vincent Keter.

The Kenyan squad will run in the high altitude Nairobi with the Norwegian brothers competing from virtually sea level at Bislett, Oslo, in Norway.

A hamstring injury suffered in the heats saw Manangoi’s dreams of gold at the 2016 Rio Olympic Games 1,500m men’s race go up in smoke.

The 2017 world 1,500m champion also saw his dreams of a defending that title in Doha last year shattered by a stress fracture in his right leg.

Manang’oi, fondly known as the “Lion”, has not competed since winning the national 1,500m title on August 22 last year at the Nyayo National Stadium after the injury on his right leg recurred in training.

That saw Manang’oi, who is also the 2018 Africa 1,500m champion, fail to defend his world title as his training and teammate from Rongai Athletics Club, Timothy Cheruiyot, went on to clinch gold in Doha.

Manang’oi made a return from an injury in March this year, competing in 5,000m during Athletics Kenya’s track and field weekend meeting at Kasarani.

“I return hungrier and more serious in training since last year was too tough for me after I didn’t get to defend my title in Doha.

I am happy my brother Cheruiyot did the great honour of keeping the title in Kenya


He adds that even though altitude challenges will play a big role during the virtual race, they have what it takes to conquer the Norwegians brothers, just like they have done before.

“It’s obvious the race will be tricky if you are to compare the altitude. But we have always been the best we shall beat the Norwegians. I am told they have been training well but that doesn’t worry us,” said Manang'oi.

He sees the race as a good build-up to the 2020 Diamond League and the World Athletics Continental Tour that have been rescheduled is to start in August this year.

Manang’oi has competed in 400m, 800m, 1,500m and the mile, setting personal best 46.5, 1:44.15, 3:28.80 and 3:49.08, respectively.

But the rarely-run 2,000m race will be new to him.

The race will be broadcast live globally on split screen TV with images from Nairobi and Oslo running side-by-side.

The competition and is named in honour of the Australian athletics agent, Maurie Plant, who died in January.

Both teams will start with five runners and will have to finish with three.

The winner of the match will be the team with the best overall time for three runners.

Individual times will count as well, and the Ingebrigtsen brothers will have one eye on the European record of 4:51.39 held by Steve Cram, who will be the race day commentator.

Several other big names will compete at the “Impossible Games.”

In the pole vault, Sweden’s Mondo Duplantis will take on his predecessor as world record-holder Renaud Lavillenie of France.