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Visually impaired Kenyan is a cinch

February 14, 2004 16:30 IST

Henry Wanyoike of Kenya could be the surprise packet in the Standard Chartered Mumbai International Marathon on Sunday.

The visually impaired runner, who will be running with the help of a guide [who can accompany and instruct him throughout the race], is hoping to win the 21 kms half marathon.

The 5,000 metres gold medallist at the 2000 Paralympics in Sydney, said the guide controls him with a string tied to his hand.

Narrating an incident at last year's Boston Marathon, which he won, the 28-year-old said, "I was on the threshold of breaking the record and almost dragged my guide in the last 50 metres to the finishing line, but I was short by three minutes. My best time in any marathon is two hours and 49 minutes."

Wanyoike, who lost 92 per cent of his sight after suffering a stroke in 1995, has also won gold medals in the 800 and 1,500 metres at a Cairo event, in the Blind Marathon in Japan, and in the Boston Trophy 5,000 metres. In addition, he holds the world records for the 5,000 and 10,000 metres.

Victory in the Hong Kong half marathon (in 70 minutes) last month prompted the Standard Chartered Bank, sponsors of the Mumbai Marathon, to fund his and his guide's expenses for the Mumbai meet.

"When I won few could believe that a blind guy could beat them," says Wanyoike, looking back on last week's victory in the Open category of the marathon in Hong Kong.

Kipchoge Keino, who won gold medals at the 1968 (1500 metres) and 1972 (3000 m steeplechase) Olympics is Wanyoike's idol.

"I wanted to be like him and some of the great Kenyan runners when I was young," he says.

So how does he rate his chances on Sunday.

"I'm running; am ready."

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