He has only been in Kenya for a month now but 800m Commonwealth champion Nijel Amos from Botswana has already picked up a few Kiswahili words. “Ninataka Chai (I want some tea),” says Amos, as he settles down for an interview with the Sunday Nation team at the Rosa and Associates training camp in Kaptagat, Elgeyo Marakwet County. “I love Kenyan tea. It is one of my favourite drinks in this country. What I like most is that it is available anytime unlike back home in Botswana,” he adds. The Commonwealth champ has been undergoing a rigorous training programme at the high altitude - averaging 2,500m - Kaptagat forest as he prepares for major races next year. The target is certainly the World Championships to be held in London in August. Kaptagat is in the Rift Valley situated some 40km from Eldoret, Kenya’s fifth largest town. “I feel I have made a good decision to come to Kenya to train. The athletes here are dedicated. This has enabled me to fully concentrate on what brought me here,” he says.
And he reveals that his fellow athletes at the camp, who include - world 1,500m champion Asbel Kiprop – have really been urging him to put in extra effort in training. “I used to run for only six kilometres back at home. But these days I do at least 15km, which I consider a great achievement…. I really love the trail in the forest which makes running that much more pleasant,” says the former Olympics silver medallist. “We normally train with Asbel (Kiprop). The weather here is just perfect. It was a little difficult for me because of the high altitude but I have become used to it,” says Amos, or is it Kibet? His Kenyan training mates here in Kaptagat have nicknamed him Kibet. “I really do not know how this name came about. May be it is common name in this area or it suits me, I do not know. I just warmly accept it." Switching gears he says: “I have been participating in many competitions and I have had mixed results, but this coming season, I expect to excel in all the competitions I will participate in,” as he sips his newly found favourite beverage, Kenyan tea.
“I usually start my training regime every January but this season, things have changed. I started training in October and have continued to date. I will travel back home to celebrate Christmas with my family before returning to Kenya for more training in January.” The Chelsea die-hard fan reveals that he also plans to travel to Oregon in the US later on in the year to work on his speed work. He says he respects Kenyan athletes for their dedication to the sport. “David Rudisha, for instance, is my role model. I respect him very much. He makes me work hard every day and I know very soon I’ll fit in his shoes,” he added.
He also attempted to explain why he chocked at the Rio Olympic Games held in August in Rio de Janeiro in Brazil. “After winning the African title I set my sights on an Olympic gold. I was prepared for any outcome. I was however surprised when I did not make it to the finals. Maybe I was fatigued after the African Championships,” says the 22-year-old athlete. Born in 1994 in Central District, Botswana, he went to Nyamambisi Primary School before joining Makonel Senior School. He then proceeded for further studies at North University in South Africa but discontinued his learning to concentrate on athletics fully.
Nijel’s star started rising in 2011 when he participated in the Africa Championships where he bagged a bronze medal before getting another bronze medal in the Commonwealth Youth Games. His training earned him a place in the Olympics Games team in 2012 and where he won a silver medal in the men’s 800m with a personal best of 1:41.73 behind Rudisha, who broke the world record. The following year was not good for him after he got an injury that forced him out of major competitions. He came back with a win in the Africa Championships in 2014. In 2015, he was able to register another win at the Africa Games but missed a chance to compete for the title in the World Championships held in Beijing, China last year.
Born: March 15, 1994
Sport: Track and field
200 metres: 21.34
400 metres: 45.56
800 metres: 1:41.73