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Marathoner Chelanga Succeeds

Joshua Chelanga

Joshua Chelanga

By winning last weekend’s Fortis Rotterdam Marathon, the 34-year-old Joshua Chelanga is finally coming out of the shadow of his long time training partner and mentor, Paul Tergat.

Chelanga is among the athletes who have formed Tergat’s retinue in athletics, so much so that you will always find them training together and attending functions together.

So close is Chelanga to Tergat that he could not leave the world’s fastest marathon runner out of his speech upon arrival from the Dutch city of Rotterdam this week.

“I will wait for (Robert) Cheruiyot (winner of Monday’s Boston Marathon) and Tergat next week to discuss and review our performances individually before we decide what to do next,” Chelanga said.

The three train together in Ngong and with Chelanga and Cheruiyot already winners at the weekend, the focus will now shift towards Tergat’s assault on Sunday’s Flora London Marathon.

The other major achievement by Chelanga, who like Tergat hails from Baringo district, was a silver medal at the 2002 Commonwealth Games marathon race held in Manchester, England.

Prior to that, he had picked up a bronze at the prestigious Boston Marathon in 2001, a race that marked his marathon debut .

Chelanga won last Sunday’s 27th edition of Rotterdam marathon just eight days after his 34th birthday. The race was run under high temperatures that forced the organisers to call off the race after three hours.

He was the only runner to break the 2:10 mark in the race and was nearly two minutes ahead of second placed Takayukuki Matsumiya of Japan.

Chelanga ran two marathons last year in Paris, where he was 26th and in Eindhoven, Netherlands, where he finished 12th in 2:18.08.

The race was won by another Kenyan Philip Sing’oei.

Chelanga recorded his personal best marathon time of 2:07.05 when he finished third at the 2004 Berlin Marathon. Before then, he had ran in the popular Rock ‘n’ Roll half marathon finishing second in 1:01.55 the same time as the winner, fellow Kenyan Haron Toroitich.

Chelanga made his world cross country debut in 1997 in Turin, Italy, and finished 17th in the senior men’s long race.

From 1999, Chelanga and Patrick Ivuti were seen as instrumental in most wins by Tergat at the world cross country championships. Tergat won five times.

In 1999, when the world cross was held in Belfast, North Ireland, Chelanga, Tergat and Ivuti were in the senior men’s 12km race. The results of the race indicated the close co-operation between the three training partners. Tergat won the race, Ivuti was second and Chelanga fourth.

There was a near uprising in the Kenyan camp at the world cross country championships held in Portugal’s town of Vilamoura when an official’s move to replace Chelanga with another athlete was opposed.

The disagreement disorganized the team and when the 12km senior men race ended, the best placed Kenyan was Tergat at position three. Ivuti was fourth and Charles Kamathi seventh.

The close association between Chelanga and Tergat is normally evident in social circles where they are always found together.

Now that Chelanga has finally come out of Tergat’s shadow, Kenyans should also expect Ivuti to follow suit soon. Ivuti was 5th at Rotterdam in 2:12.24.

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