Wilson Kosgei Kipketer (born 12 December 1972) is a Kenyan-born Danish former middle distance runner. Until 2012 he held the indoor world record at the 800 metres distance. While dominating the 800 m distance for a decade, remaining undefeated for a three-year period and running 8 of the 17 currently all-time fastest times, he never won an Olympic gold medal. He did, however, win gold medals in three successive editions of the IAAF World Championships in Athletics. Kipketer's 800 meters world record stood for almost 13 years. It was surpassed on 22 August 2010, when David Rudisha beat it by 0.02 seconds, running 1:41.09. David Rudisha would eventually go on to further lower the 800m world record to the first and only sub one minute 41 second run
Kipketer represented both Sparta and KIF during his running career.
Kipketer was born in Kapchemoiywo, Kenya, into the Kalenjin tribe.
As a teenager, he was first noticed by 1968 and 1972 Olympic champion Kip Keino. Keino suggested Kipketer attend the Catholic St. Patrick's High School in Iten that was famous for bringing up young runners. David Rudisha, who surpassed Kipketer's 800m world record in 2010, was like Kipketer coached by longtime St. Patrick's coach, teacher and former Headmaster Brother Colm O'Connell. Unlike Kipketer, Rudisha did not attend St. Patrick's, rather he went to a neighboring St. Francis, Kimuron Secondary School in Iten, Keiyo District.
In 1990, Kipketer travelled to Denmark as a foreign exchange student, studying electronic engineering. He liked Denmark so much that he applied for Danish citizenship. Kipketer came to international attention in 1994 when he won 16 of 18 800 meter races, ran the second fastest 800 meters of the year (1:43.29) and was ranked number one in the world by Track and Field News magazine. The next year, he won 10 of 12 races, ran under 1:43 twice (becoming only the second man to break 1:43 twice in one season, after Joaquim Cruz who did it in 1984 & 1985) with his 1:42.87 being the world leader, and he competed for Denmark in the 1995 World Championships. It was there that he claimed his first World Championship title in the 800 metres, pulling away from his competitors in dominating fashion down the homestretch.
However, Kipketer was not a full Danish citizen, and in 1996 the International Olympic Committee disallowed him from competing for Denmark in the Olympic Games in Atlanta, USA. Despite his absence from the Olympics, there was no doubt that Kipketer was the strongest 800 m runner in the world that year. He remained undefeated throughout 1996, including wins over all three 800 meter medalists at the 1996 Olympic Games, and set a new personal best of 1:41.83 in Rieti at the end of the season, the fastest 800 meter time in the world in 12 years and only 0.1 short of the World Record. Despite not participating in the Olympics, Track & Field News magazine ranked him number one in the world in the 800 meters for 1996.
In 1997 Kipketer was at the peak of his career. In March he won the 800 m gold at the Indoor World Championships in Paris, France. In fact, he broke the indoor world record time in the heats by nearly a second, beating Paul Ereng's WR 1:44.84 with his 1:43.96. Then in the final he took yet another second off the world record with a scintillating 1:42.67. On 7 July he tied Sebastian Coe's world record (1:41.73) for the 800 metres at a meeting in Stockholm, Sweden. Coe's record had stood for sixteen years. He went on to break the record twice that year, the first time being in Zurich, Switzerland at the Weltklasse Zürich GP on 13 August when he ran 1:41.24. (His was one of three world records to fall in a 70-minute stretch at this remarkable meet, the other two being the 5,000 meter record to Haile Gebrselassie and the 3,000 meter steeplechase to Wilson Boit Kipketer. To the latter, he is not related.) Eleven days later, on 24 August, he improved the world record to 1:41.11 at the Grand Prix meet in Cologne, Germany. On 8 August, in the 1997 World Championships in Athletics at the Olympic Stadium, Athens, Greece, he led the race from start to finish, blazing the first 200 meters in 23.47 seconds, and successfully defended the World Championship title he had won in 1995. He was voted Track & Field Athlete of the Year by Track and Field News Magazine.
The following season, Kipketer contracted malaria and at first intended not to race at all. Eventually, he participated in three meets, winning in Monaco and running a swift 1:43.18 in Zurich. At the European Championships in Budapest but made physical contact with the eventual winner Nils Schumann on the final straight and did not win a medal. He came back in 1999 by finishing second at the Indoor World Championships and bettering that with a gold medal at the 1999 World Championship in Seville, Spain. As in 1997, Kipketer was undefeated in 1999, winning all 10 outdoor races and finishing the year ranked number one in the world in the 800m by Track & Field News magazine.
In 2000, he broke the world indoor record in the 1000 metres by running a 2:14.96. However, he raced sparingly outdoors and didn't show the same form he had in previous years, losing three out of the four races he contested. At the 2000 Summer Olympics in Sydney, Australia, Kipketer took silver, finishing 0.06 behind Nils Schumann in a tactical, closely contested 800 metres race.
In 2002, Kipketer won the gold medal at the European Championships in Munich, defeating the reigning world champion, André Bucher and 2000 Olympic champion, Nils Schumann. He also won 8 of the 9 races he contested, had the fastest 800 metre time in the world (1:42.32), and ranked number one in the world for 800 metres for a record sixth time (one more than Mal Whitfield).
Despite fighting injuries, Kipketer continued to compete through the 2003 season gaining a silver medal at the Indoor World Championships at the National Indoor Arena, Birmingham, England but only managing fourth place at the World Championships later that year.
In the 2004 Summer Olympics in Athens, Greece Kipketer had the lead with 80 meters left in the 800 metres final but was passed with 20 meters left by Yuriy Borzakovskiy and Mbulaeni Mulaudzi, Kipketer taking the bronze medal. At 33 years of age he was still running fast times (breaking 1:44 on three occasions) but no longer had the dominant finish he once possessed, winning only one of the six races he contested, and did not race again after 2004. He ended his career with a remarkable record of fast 800 meter times: except for 2001, he ran 1:43 or better every year from 1994 to 2004. His ten years of sub-1:44 800 meter times is unmatched by any other athlete.
During 11 years his coach was Sławomir Nowak (Poland).
He announced his retirement from competitive athletics in August 2005.
He married his Danish girlfriend Pernille in 2000 (also a long-distance athlete).
Kipketer owns property in Monaco, Copenhagen, and Eldoret (Kenya). Kipketer has a son born in 2004.
Despite gaining Danish citizenship, Kipketer resides in Monaco. A 1999 article by Associated Press documents that his choice of residence was made for tax reasons.
Kipketer is today a member of the ‘Champions for Peace’, a group of more than 70 famous elite athletes committed to serving peace in the world through sport, created by Peace and Sport, a Monaco-based international organization.
|800 m||1:41.11||24 August 1997||Cologne, Germany|
|800 m||1:42.67 (indoor)||February 1997||Paris, France|
|1000 m||2:14.96 (indoor)||20 February 2000||Birmingham, United Kingdom|
|Mile||3:59.57||5 July 1993||Stockholm, Sweden|