Q&A with… Paul Ereng

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Country: Kenya

Profession: Coach

Paul is a former Olympic 800m Champion, having won gold for Kenya at the 1988 Seoul Games.  He was also World Indoor Champion in 1989 and 1991. After retiring from competition, Paul went on to coach steeplechase legend Ezekiel Kemboi, 800m athlete Janeth Jepkosgei, South Sudan’s 800/1500m athlete Ismael Ahmad Ismael, Eritrean Simret Sultan and more at the Eldoret High Performance Training Centre. In 2003, he became the first Kenyan to take a collegiate coaching job in the United States when he was named University of Texas at El Paso (UTEP’s) cross country and distance coach. He is now in his 17th season at UTEP.

What has been a defining moment in your career?

As an athlete, it was winning the 800m at the 1988 Olympic Games in Seoul, and following that with a world indoor title and world record six months later.

As a coach, I think the defining moments are when you have an athlete ready to perform at the highest level and then they get injured. It is very painful – but you learn through these moments to keep going, to be resilient and not give up.

What was the first thought that went through your mind when you heard the Tokyo Olympics had been postponed?

My first thought was “Whoa, lots of young people who were ready this season have just lost an opportunity, and no one will ever know what they could have accomplished if the Olympic Games took place.” But we can’t control everything in life, and so you have to make the best of the situation and focus on preparing for the next opportunity.

Which superpower would you like to have?

I would like the power to be healthy at all times. When you are healthy you can accomplish many things and be impactful.

When under pressure, what do you say to yourself to help you get through it?

I tell myself to relax and remind myself to hang in a bit longer because it will soon be over.

What three things you would take with you if had to be stranded on a desert island for a year?

This will be pretty tough, a year is very long. A lighter, a Machete or a knife and a whistle