By Robert Johnson
November 4, 2016
NEW YORK — After talking to defending TCS New York City Marathon champion Stanley Biwott on Friday afternoon, we had an interesting and lengthy conversation with Biwott’s coach – the famed 74-year-old Italian, Dr. Gabriele Rosa. In terms of Biwott’s fitness, Rosa said that Biwott most definitely was in great shape in Rio. He said that he thought Biwott would easily get a silver medal (Rosa views Eliud Kipchoge as unbeatable right now) before the drink mixup.
We then talked to Dr. Rosa about doping in Kenya and the fact that his son Federico Rosa as well as coach Claudio Berardelli, whom Dr. Rosa mentored into the coaching ranks for nearly a decade (Berardelli initially started by following Dr. Rosa’s athletes on a bike), were arrested by Kenyan police this summer. We asked Dr. Rosa if he felt vindicated by the fact that last week’s Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) decision on Rita Jeptoo had said that Jeptoo had hidden her doping from her manager and coach.
Dr. Rosa wasn’t celebrating the CAS decision as he always knew there was no merit to the charges.
“We are clean”
“Kenya is very dangerous [right now]. Federico is not involved [in doping],” said Dr. Rosa. “In Kenya, if you pay someone maybe [and] you go to the police and [Person A says] that [Person B is] not a good person, they come and take [Person B] to prison. It’s an incredible situation what is going on – but in November the issue should be released completely, everything finished. We are clean.
“Myself I have coached more than 1500 athletes in 25 years – [and there was] nothing – no problem [with doping until this].
“We must wait. We never try to explain the situation because our lawyer in Kenya said, ‘Pay attention. Kenya is very dangerous. Don’t make noise [with the press].’
But we are near to the finish of everything.”
We asked Dr. Rosa if given the CAS decision if he might hire Claudio Berardelli back as Beradelli had resigned last year shortly before Agatha Jeruto became the third Berardelli-coached athlete to test to be banned (Mathew Kisorio and Rita Jeptoo being the others).*
That doesn’t seem likely to happen as Dr. Rosa said he wasn’t happy with the coaching that Berardelli was doing and that’s why Dr. Rosa decided to come out of a mini-retirement last year and start coaching the athletes that Berardelli had been handling. That being said, Dr. Rosa emphatically stated Berardelli wasn’t guilty of doping.
“My suggestion is: if you follow the athletes, you must understand what they do [even when they aren’t with you]. You know what I mean. It is important [to know what they are doing],” said Dr. Rosa. “Maybe he was not smart enough to understand the situation – that is my position.
“What I say to Claudio [was], ‘Why are you every day twice per day with the athletes and you are not able to understand [they are doping]?’
“I guarantee that Claudio is not involved in doping – completely. I trust in him completely – but maybe he was too young to know what was going on in Kenya. I respect Claudio a lot. He is a good coach but maybe he is too friendly. You must not trust too much. You must be distant. In 50 years, I never had one doping case – never.
“[But] the police don’t find any case – nothing about Claudio.”
Defending NYC champ Stanley Biwott used to be coached by Berardelli and is currently represented by the Rosas. He had nothing but good things to say about Berardelli and Federico Rosa.
“I know Federico is a good guy. Those are false allegations. My former coach – Claudio – was the best,” said Biwott.
In terms of coaching, Dr. Rosa said is thrilled by the results of both Stanley Biwott and Jemima Sumgong since he has taken over their coaching in the spring of 2015.
“I was the teacher of Claudio Berardelli. I [taught] him [how] to be a coach [from] 2004-2012. Two years ago, I was not very happy with the results because Stanley is a big talent,” said Dr. Rosa, who also wasn’t happy with Sumgong’s results under Berardelli. “Nobody trusted Jemima. She always under Priscah Jeptoo who was the most important [in Claudio’s group].”
Dissatisfied with the results, Rosa got back into the coaching game and the results have been spectacular for Sumgong and Biwott. A 2015 NYC win and 2:03 London runner-up in 2016 for Biwott and London and Olympic titles for Sumgong this year.
“I am enjoying being a coach again. I decided to relax a little but am now back coaching,” said Dr. Rosa.
Rosa said the key for Biwott was increasing the distance of his double runs. He said Biwott was always good for 30k but struggled in the later stages of a marathon. Rosa said he thinks it’s important to have Biwott to do two fairly long runs on training days instead of just one main run and a short shakeout. Rosa likes to see two runs in the 15-20km range.
“I improved the distance,” said Rosa. “Usually they need twice per day.”
“He’s not the best in the world [now but] he’s the second best. Eliud [Kipchoge] is the best for maybe 1 or 2 more years – but [Eliud’s] older [than Stanley],” said Dr. Rosa.
As for Sumgong, Dr. Rosa said things are going great as he’s got a great working relationship with Sumgong’s husband, whom he switched from being a rabbit to being Dr. Rosa’s coach on the ground for Sumgong when he’s in Italy. Dr. Rosa said Sumgong’s husband is “very smart, very intelligent” and that “every day” they agree on what training works best for her.
“With Jemima you need to run very, very fast,” said Dr. Rosa.
*The article initially stated that Beradelli was fired from the Rosa group as stated in this October 2015 Xinhua article. That is incorrect. We have seen his resignation later which is dated August 7, 2015.
Earlier, the article attributed the following quote to Lucas Rotich instead of Stanley Biwott. “I know Federico is a good guy. Those are false allegations. My former coach – Claudio – was the best.”