Ismael Kirui was born to run. Running is in his genes: the younger brother of the late Richard Chelimo, another brother, Willy Kirui, won bronze at 5000m at the 2002 Commonwealth Games. His half-sister is Catherine Kirui, a past winner of the IAAF Cross Challenge. And Moses Kiptanui, the three-time 3000m steeplechase World champion and international William Mutwol are both cousins.
With a family background steeped in running, Ismael Kirui’s innate talent soon demonstrated itself to the wider world, when, aged just 15, running 10,000m in Plovdiv, Bulgaria, Kirui took the silver medal behind his brother, Richard Chelimo, at the IAAF World Junior Championships. His debut at the World Cross, at Antwerp in 1991, saw Kirui place seventh in the junior race.
But a year later, on the snow-strewn hills of Franklin Park, Boston, Kirui claimed his first World title, running away with the junior title and beating Ethiopia's Haile Gebrselassie into second place.