Cycling: Former runner finds new passion

Cycling: Former runner finds new passion

Like most boys born in the Kenyan district of Nandi - home to 10km world champion Moses Tanui and two-time Olympic gold medallist Kipchoge Keino - Emmanuel Killy had dreams of becoming a world-class runner.

At 18, he clocked 3 min 41 sec to come in third in the 1,500m at the national junior championships of Kenya - a country which is a giant in world distance running.

His time, along with his 13 min 52 sec in the 5,000m clocked that year, is faster than Singapore's national marks of 3:51:59 and 14:51:09.

Barely a year later, however, his running career came to a sudden halt.

A coach at his school made him switch from track running to road competitions which he thought were more lucrative in terms of prize money.

For the teenage runner, however, it proved too much too soon.

To perform in road races over 5km, 10km, 21km, 42km and more, his training mileage shot up and his body was not prepared for it.

"It was very hard to go from track to road. The training was not gradual. It just rose up and that destroyed me. I got injured," says Killy, the son of maize farmers.

A persistent right knee injury led to his early retirement from running. Now 22, he says: "I was planning to do my road races at 26 or 27, after I finished with track. I was still very young."

But another door opened for Killy when Kenyan Riders' owner Nicholas Leong heard about his talent and came knocking.

Cycling, Leong says, is less harsh on the joints. With proper rehabilitation and therapy, Killy could possibly still forge a career in sports.

Says Killy: "My ambition has always been in sports. At the cycling camp, the coaches knew about my injury. I learnt a lot of exercises to make my knee stronger and soon the pain went away."

With a newfound passion for cycling, Killy is also inspired by seeing his senior John Njoroge beat Caucasian riders.

"We train together, we sleep together, we eat the same food. It shows that we can do it. We can race against them, the white men. Like Njoroge has shown. They were there at Tour of Rwanda, and they came in behind him."

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