At the pre-meet press conference here on Friday (27) before Saturday’s New Balance Indoor Grand Prix, the moderator asked all the athletes about their New Year’s resolutions. Some were serious (“I’m hand-writing at least one letter a month”), some were flip (“I resolved to have more animals in my life”), so when Paul Chelimo announced that his resolution was to not lose any races, it was a little difficult to tell if he was being serious.
At Saturday’s IAAF World Indoor Tour meeting, he showed that he was.
Chelimo ran assertively near the front of the chase pack in the men’s 3000m, controlling the pace and allowing Lawi Lalang to run from the front and burn himself off. Then, when Lalang was finished with just over two laps remaining, Chelimo moved to the front and successfully defied anyone to get past him. He crossed the line in 7:42.39, not what he’d hoped for but not far adrift from his PB of 7:39.00. Then he snapped off a salute to the flag hanging high on the arena wall.
Running is not, formally, Paul Kipkemoi Chelimo’s full-time profession. Chelimo is a specialist in the US Army, assigned to the Army’s World Class Athlete Program (WCAP). The mission of the WCAP is to win Olympic medals, and Chelimo performed that mission better than anyone last year. He won silver in the Rio Olympic 5000m, running a near-perfect final for a 13:03.90 PB - and the Olympic final is the best possible race to run a PB.
Step back another year. In 2015 Chelimo was 11th at the US championships, far off from his goal of a berth on the team to Beijing. “I was heartbroken,” he says. “After that, I was waking up to make the Olympic team.”