Olympic and World 3,000m steeplechase champion Ezekiel Kemboi arrived in Paris on Friday on time for Saturday’s Areva Diamond League meet after a visa hitch had delayed his arrival.
Kemboi failed to travel on Wednesday night over what the two-time Olympic champion said was failure by Brussels Airlines officials “to understand” his travelling documents.
Kemboi, who was to transit through Brussels en-route to Paris, was forced to change his travel plans for a direct Kenya Airways flight to the French capital where he arrived shortly after 6.30am.
“I have an Italian stay visa which is like a work permit and I don’t know why the check-in officials failed to understand. It was a little too late after they had called Italy to confirm my status and I had to be booked on another flight,” said Kemboi.
But an official from Brussels Airlines, who sought anonymity as he’s not authorised to speak to the press, said Kemboi’s Italian visa is not the Schengen Visa, hence the multiple-Olympic medallist had to fly to Italy first before connecting to anywhere in Europe.
However, the three times World champion hopes for a good race in Paris, which will be his last before embarking on training in Kenya for roadwork and Italy for speed work ahead of the World Championships trials due July 31-August 1 in Nairobi.
“My plan was just to run three races in Eugene, Oslo and Paris before concentrating on trials,” said Kemboi, who wants to become the first man to win four titles in steeplechase, having equaled Moses Kiptanui’s hat-trick of victories when he won in 2013 Moscow after 2009 Berlin and 2011 Daegu.
“I expect a good race and I hope to perform well. I had some stomach problems which made me perform poorly in Oslo,” said Kemboi, who won the Prefontaine Classic in Eugene on May 30 in a world lead time of 8:01.71, beating Shanghai winner Jairus Birech (8:01.83 ), World silver medallist Conseslus Kipruto (8:05.20) to second and third respectively.
Kemboi would settle a distant 10th in Oslo on June 11 in 8:30.07 in a race won by Birech (8:05.36) followed by Kipruto (8:11.92).
“I just like the healthy competition amongst ourselves since it brings out the best from us. I can’t wait to see if we can make a clean sweep at the World Championships,” said Kemboi, 33, who attributes his good performance to training well, running few quality races and discipline. “Of course I just pick few races with good money.”
Kemboi is up against Birech, who is the Series defending champion and leader, the 2013 Series winner Conseslus Kipruto, the 2008 Olympic champion Brimin Kipruto, who has been struggling with shape wing to an injury, and Paul Kipsiele Koech, who won the Series in 2009, 2010 and 2012. Also in the race are pacesetter Haron Lagat, Clement Kemboi, Lawrence Kemboi and Hillary Kipsang.
The focus will also be on the 1,500m where series leader Silas Kiplagat, who won in Shanghai, will lead compatriots, Commonwealth champion James Magut, and World junior record-holder Ronald Kwemoi.
The Kenyans face a strong challenge from Olympic champion Taoufik Makhloufi (Algeria), World bronze medallist Souleiman Ayanleh (Djbouti) and American Evan Jager, who holds fourth fastest time this season from Eugene where he finished fourth.
Ayanleh won the 800m race in Doha and a Mile race in Eugene.
Courtesy of nation.co.ke