Saif Saaeed Shaheen

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Saif Saaeed Shaheen
Saif saaeed shaheen.jpg
Saif Saaeed Shaheen in 2009
Medal record
Men’s Athletics
Competitor for  Qatar
World Championships
Gold 2003 Paris 3000 m st.
Gold 2005 Helsinki 3000 m st.
World Indoor Championships
Silver 2006 Moscow 3000 m
Competitor for  Kenya
World Youth Championships
Gold 1999 Bydgoszcz 2000 m st.
Commonwealth Games
Gold 2002 Manchester 3000 m st.

Saif Saaeed Shaheen (Arabic: سيف سعيد شاهين‎) formerly Stephen Cherono (born October 15, 1982) is a steeplechase runner. He was born in Keiyo, Kenya, but now represents Qatar. He currently holds the world record for 3000 meter steeplechase. He is a two time World Champion in the event. His older brother Abraham Cherono is also a steeplechase runner.

He was the 1999 World Youth Champion in the steeplechase and set a world junior record two years later. He won the steeplechase at the 2002 Commonwealth Games for Kenya but switched allegiance to Qatar in 2003. That year he became world champion in the event, although a dispute with the Kenyan Athletics Federation meant he was ineligible to compete at the 2004 Summer Olympics. He defeated that year's Olympic champion, Ezekiel Kemboi, a month later with a world record run of 7:53.63 minutes.

In the 2006 season he took the 3000 metres silver medal at the 2006 IAAF World Indoor Championships and also set a number of Asian records. He completed a 5000 m/steeplechase double at the 2006 IAAF World Cup. Serious injuries ruled him out from late 2006 to 2008 and he returned to competition in 2009.

Early competition for Kenya[edit]

Stephen Cherono was born and raised in Kenya, showing athletic ability from a young age. He initially made his mark on the international stage with a win at the 1999 World Youth Championships in Athletics over the 2000 metre steeplechase. A world junior record in the 3000 m steeplechase followed in 2001 at the Memorial van Damme meet in Brussels – his mark of 7:58.66 has stood for almost a decade. He went on to become the world champion over the 3000 metre steeplechase course in 2003 and again in 2005.

He began to experiment with longer distances and in 2003 he ran the fastest 5000 metres race in the world, a 12:48.81 in a meet in Ostrava in which he defeated multiple world champion Hicham El Guerrouj by two seconds and his 12:48.81 ranks him on the top ten all-time list for 5000 metres.

Move to Qatar[edit]

Shaheen moved from Kenya to Qatar in 2003, along with fellow Kenyan Ahmad Hassan Abdullah. Changing his name from Stephen Cherono to Saif Saaeed Shaheen, he was reported to have received up to US$1 million to become a Qatari citizen,[1] although he denied this. Some reports stated that he had been given US$1,000 every month for the rest of his life for his change of nationality. After about 40 athletes had left the country, President Mwai Kibaki made a speech before the 2005 World Championships in which he said "Let us resist the temptation to change our citizenship for financial gains."[2]

Shaheen began his international career for Qatar by winning two medals at the 2003 Asian Athletics Championships, taking silvers over 1500 m and 5000 m. When he won the steeplechase at the 2003 World Championships in Athletics in Paris, his brother, who was also in the race, walked off the track and did not congratulate him due to his defection to Qatar.

Shaheen was barred from competing in the 2004 Olympic Games due to an International Olympic Committee (IOC) rule that athletes may not compete in international events for three years after competing in an international event for a different country. This rule may be waived if the athlete and the governing athletics bodies from the two countries involved agree that it should be; the Kenyan Athletics Federation did not agree. Kenyan runner Ezekiel Kemboi won the Olympic steeplechase race that year.

Shaheen's move is a prominent example of increasing globalization in athletics, as countries such as Qatar and Bahrain, also a Gulf State, have persuaded high-profile African athletes to change nationalities. This marked a change of motivation in athlete transfers, in contrast, for example, to the politically motivated change of Zola Budd, or the marriage and emigration issues that led Wilson Kipketer to compete for Denmark. IOC President Jacques Rogge has also raised concerns about athletes moving between countries, stating that, "What is bad is countries or organizations wanting to buy athletes just for the money."[3]

Sympathy has been expressed for Shaheen's move, with the former 3,000 metre steeplechase world record holder, Kenyan Moses Kiptanui, stating "We have seen a lot of athletes who were running in the 1968 Olympics or 1974 until maybe last year, some of them, they are living in a very, very sparse state. They are very poor despite the fact they have done great things for this country".[2]

Competing for Qatar[edit]

He was eighth in the long race and fourth in the short race at the 2005 IAAF World Cross Country Championships, leading Qatar to the team bronze on both occasions. On the track later that year he became the steeplechase world champion with a win at the 2005 World Championships in Athletics, defeating his Kenyan rivals Kemboi and Kipruto. He began the following year by running an Asian indoor record to win the 3000 metres gold medal at the 2006 Asian Indoor Athletics Championships. Moving on to the global stage, he ran in the event at the 2006 IAAF World Indoor Championships and took the silver medal, losing to Kenenisa Bekele by two seconds. This was his first global indoor medal but he was not happy with his race tactics: "That was not very intelligent of me. I knew exactly when Kenenisa would start his kick and I planned to be close to him at that time. But I wasn't."[4]

In the outdoor season he took two wins on the 2006 IAAF Golden League, taking the steeplechase races at the Weltklasse Zurich and Memorial van Damme meetings. He was selected to represent Asia at the 2006 IAAF World Cup and completed a double by taking the 5000 m title and then setting a championship record to win in his steeplechase speciality. Shaheen was the first runner to medal in both events at the same competition, let alone win the double.[5]

His successful season came at a price as, after ignoring doctor's orders, the tendinitis in his patella worsened and an Achilles tendon injury doubled his health difficulties. As a result he missed a number of major competitions, including the 2006 Asian Games, the 2007 World Championships in Athletics and the 2008 Beijing Olympics. He began finding it difficult to walk for long periods and underwent treatment with renowned sports injury specialist Hans-Wilhelm Müller-Wohlfahrt. A possible comeback in 2008 turned out to be a write-off as he pulled up in pain in circuit races in Athens and Eugene, Oregon.[6]

He came back into competition in early 2009. He won the Cinque Mulini race and set his sights upon the 2009 IAAF World Cross Country Championships.[6] Although not at his best, his thirteenth place finish at the competition to head the Qatari team to fifth in the rankings marked his return to the top level.[7] When he returned to the track he set a personal best in the 3000 metres at the Qatar Athletic Super Grand Prix, running 7:32.46 for fourth place.[8] At the 2009 World Championships in Athletics, however, he was far from the form which brought him a world record. He finished eleventh in his 5000 m heat and was eliminated in the first round.[9]

He competed in his first elite road race in 2010, running at the Belgrade Race Through History. He finished the difficult 6 km course in 16:57, which was enough for fourth place behind Stephen Tum.[10] A runner-up finish followed at the Great South Run 10-miler followed two weeks later, where he was second only to Joseph Ebuya who recorded the fastest ever time in the United Kingdom.[11]

References[edit]

  1. ^ The New York Times: A Runner Changes His Flag For Cash
  2. ^ a b Kenya's President Urges Athletes to Stay. Nairobi World News (2005-08-03). Retrieved on 2010-10-16.
  3. ^ Mulhauser, Dana. On Your Marks. Set. Go Home!. Legal Affairs. Retrieved on 2010-10-16.
  4. ^ Men's 3000m Final. IAAF (2006-03-12). Retrieved on 2010-10-15.
  5. ^ Nakamura, Ken (2006-09-20). Historic Shaheen – IAAF World Cup in Athletics. IAAF. Retrieved on 2010-10-15.
  6. ^ a b Shaban, Saddique (2009-03-24). Focus on Athletes - Saif Saaeed Shaheen. IAAF. Retrieved on 2010-10-15.
  7. ^ 2009 World XC Championships Senior Race - M Final. IAAF. Retrieved on 2010-10-16.
  8. ^ Butcher, Pat (2009-05-08). 13 world leads in Doha - IAAF World Athletics Tour - UPDATED. IAAF. Retrieved on 2010-10-16.
  9. ^ Jalava, Mirko (2009-08-20). Event Report - Men's 5000m - Heats. IAAF. Retrieved on 2010-10-16.
  10. ^ Butcher, Pat (2010-10-13). Menjo takes five seconds off course record in Belgrade. IAAF. Retrieved on 2010-10-15.
  11. ^ Martin, Dave (2010-10-24). Ebuya clocks the fastest ever 10 Miles in UK. IAAF. Retrieved on 2010-10-24.

External links[edit]

Records
Preceded by
Morocco Brahim Boulami
Men's Steeplechase World Record Holder
September 3, 2004 —
Succeeded by
Incumbent
Sporting positions
Preceded by
Morocco Salah Hissou
Men's 5,000 m Best Year Performance
2003
Succeeded by
Ethiopia Kenenisa Bekele
Preceded by
Morocco Brahim Boulami
Men's 3,000 m Steeple Best Year Performance
2003 — 2006
Succeeded by
Kenya Paul Kipsiele Koech