LONDON, England- When Emmanuel Kipkurui Korir joined St. Francis Kimuron Secondary School in Iten, his idol in 800m, record holder David Rudisha had completed his studies at the same institution.
By then, Korir knew he wanted to be like Rudisha who had made waves worldwide by winning the 2006 IAAF World Under 20 (Junior) men 800m title in Beijing, China despite the fact he had not taken up the sport.
In fact Korir did not take running seriously throughout school and never represented the country in any age group competitions.
Fast Forward to 2017 and Korir was decked out in the famed black, green and red Team Kenya strip ready to leave a lasting impression at the London 2017 IAAF World Championships on his debut.
Most importantly his nation was pegging her hopes on the University of Texas, El Paso (UTEP) star to defend Rudisha’s title following the last minute withdrawal of the two-time world champion from London through injury.
Korir was among the overwhelming favourites to nail at least a podium place if not conquer the two-lap field having run a world leading time of 1:43.10 with victory in Monaco on his IAAF Diamond League debut.
“Before competing in Monaco, people told me senior competition is hard, so I went there not sure what to expect but I blocked my mind from thinking that I was going to lose. I first won the race in my mind,” Korir said of the performance that brought him world attention after bubbling under the surface in a roaring season.
However, his dream to land a medal in London was cut short when the Kenyan became one of the six of the nine fastest semi finalists that saw their World Championships come to an end as they failed to make the final.
A back injury that left him walking with a clutch curtailed his charge leaving Korir distraught and dejected and the athlete will spend the next few days wondering what might have been as well as his future in the sport.
Korir suffered a hip flexor injury in round one of the competition where he breezed through to the semis and much was expected of him but he could only clock 1:46.08 in the semis to finish fourth and out of the medal race.
Compatriot Ferguson Rotich also lost out after running 1:46.49 for third in the first heat with Kipyegon Bett, the world junior champ last year making sure the third heat was fast enough to get the two time qualifiers when he won in 1:45.02.
In essence, Bett inadvertedly knocked out last year’s IAAF Diamond League winner Rotich from competition.
“It was so hard to accept my dreams crashed this way but I will rise again,” the 22 year-old uttered, holding back words as his ambition to end a stellar campaign on a high unravelled at the British capital rued.
The pressure to take the mantle from Rudisha and lead Kenya to the title had been immense on Korir, the latest in the long line of contenders for the two-time Olympic champion’s two-lap throne.
“To be honest, Rudisha has achieved a lot. He is like a king in the 800m race and I hope to be like him one day. I’m close enough,” the America based athlete underscored as he seeks a path of recovery from his London heartbreak.
“He will be back, he is with me,” his coach and mentor, the 1988 Olympic champion Paul Ereng who travelled to London to support Korir added.
The UTEP sensation ran the number two 800m of all-time at the American collegiate circuit, NCAA after winning in 1:43.73 at the Brutus Hamilton Challenge in Berkeley, California in April.
It was a remarkable turnaround for Korir who finished second last in his first NCAA outing when he ran over 8km in cross country after his arrival in the US.
-The author, Lynne Wachira is reporting from London. Follow her on Twitter @WachiraLynne