Saif Saaeed Shaheen
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Saif Saaeed Shaheen
Saif Saaeed Shaheen
Saif saaeed shaheen.jpg
Shaheen in 2009
Personal information
Birth nameStephen Cheruiyot Cherono
CitizenshipQatari(from August 2003)[1]
Kenyan[2](Until August 2003)
Born (1982-10-15) 15 October 1982 (age 37)[3]
Kamelilo Village, Iron Location, Keiyo District, Rift Valley Province, Kenya[3]
Height174 cm (5 ft  in)[3][4]
Weight60 kg (130 lb)[3][4]
Event(s)3000 m steeplechase
3000 m
5000 m
Cross country
Updated on 4 May 2018.

Saif Saaeed Shaheen (Arabic: ? ‎), formerly Stephen Cherono (born October 15, 1982), is a steeplechase runner. He was born in Keiyo, Kenya but now he represents Qatar. He currently holds the world record for 3000 metre 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. He returned in 2009 and 2010 but failed to reach the same level of performance and retired from the sport.

Early competition for Kenya

Stephen Cheruiyot 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. After the death of his coach and manager Kim McDonald in 2001, he started training under Italian coach Renato Canova, who was already the coach of his elder brother Christopher Kosgei. Christopher was the 3000 metre SC World Champion in 1999. The first success of this collaboration was breaking the World Junior Record in Brussels in 2001. As of May, 2017 his time of 7:58.66 was still the WJR. He then went on to win the 3000 metre SC in both the 2003 and 2005.

He then decided to try the 5000 metres. At the 2003 Golden Spike, in Ostrava, Czech Republic, he ran 12:48.81. He won the race and defeated many times World Champion Hicham El Guerrouj by nearly a second and a half. At the time, it was the 7th fastest time ever run and he is still one of only 16 men who have ever run under 12:50 for 5000 metres.

Move to Qatar

Cherono moved from Kenya to Qatar in 2003, along with fellow Kenyan Albert Chepkurui. 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,[5] 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."[6]

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; Athletics Kenya did not agree.[7] 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 Persian 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.[8] 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."[9]

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".[6]

Competing for Qatar

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."[10]

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.[11]

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.[12]

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.[12] 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.[13] 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.[14] 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.[15]

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.[16] 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.[17]


He did not compete at top level after 2010 and Shaheen announced his formal retirement from international competition in February 2016, citing a long-term achilles tendon injury. Shaheen returned to live in Eldoret, Kenya to run a family business.[18]

International competitions

Year Competition Venue Position Event Notes
1999 World Youth Championships Bydgoszcz, Poland 1st 2000 m steeplechase 5:31.89
2001 Goodwill Games Brisbane, Australia 1st 3000 m steeplechase 8:19.98
Grand Prix Final Melbourne, Australia 3rd 3000 m steeplechase 8:18.85
2002 Commonwealth Games Manchester, United Kingdom 1st 3000 m steeplechase 8:19.41
African Championships Tunis, Tunisia 3rd 3000 m steeplechase 8:23.85
2003 European Champion Clubs Cup Valencia, Spain 1st 5000 m 13:48.97
1st 3000 m steeplechase 8:16.44
World Championships Paris, France 1st 3000 m steeplechase 8:04.39
World Athletics Final Monte Carlo, Monaco 1st 3000 m steeplechase 7:57.38
Asian Championships Manila, Philippines 2nd 1500 m 3:42.79
2nd 5000 m 13:58.92
2004 World Cross Country Championships Brussels, Belgium 5th Short race 11:44
2nd Team 39 pts
World Military Cross Country Championships Beirut, Lebanon 1st Short race 13:04
1st Team
European Champion Clubs Cup Moscow, Russia 1st 5000 m 13:55.08
1st 3000 m steeplechase 8:33.75
World Athletics Final Monte Carlo, Monaco 1st 3000 m steeplechase 7:56.94
2005 World Cross Country Championships Saint-Étienne, France 4th Short race 11:42
3rd Team 32 pts
8th Senior race 35:53
3rd Team 42 pts
World Championships Helsinki, Finland 1st 3000 m steeplechase 8:13.31
2006 Asian Indoor Championships Pattaya, Thailand 1st 3000 m 7:39.77
World Indoor Championships Moscow, Russia 2nd 3000 m 7:41.28
World Cross Country Championships Fukuoka, Japan 9th Short race 11:08
4th Team 66 pts
World Cup Athens, Greece 1st 5000 m 13:35.30
1st 3000 m steeplechase 8:19.09
2009 World Cross Country Championships Amman, Jordan 13th Senior race 35:28
World Championships Berlin, Germany 11th (h) 5000 m 13:26.35

National titles

Circuit wins

2000 m steeplechase
3000 m steeplechase
3000 m
5000 m
Cross country

Personal bests

Shaheen also holds the world under-20 record for the steeplechase at 7:58.66 minutes, set in 2001

See also


  1. ^ "Kenya: Saif Saaeed Shaheen: How And Why I Dumped Kenyan Passport". International Association of Athletics Federations. Retrieved 2015.
  2. ^ "Kenyan turns into a Qatar hero: Cherono wins under another name and flag". The Guardian. Retrieved 2015.
  3. ^ a b c d "Saif Saeed Shaheen". Daily Nation. Retrieved 2019.
  4. ^ a b "Saif Saeed Shaheen". ESPN. Retrieved 2015.
  5. ^ The New York Times: A Runner Changes His Flag For Cash
  6. ^ a b Kenya's President Urges Athletes to Stay. Nairobi World News (2005-08-03). Retrieved on 2010-10-16.
  7. ^ Why can't Stephen Cherono race for Qatar? (2004-07). Retrieved on 2016-12-07.
  8. ^ Kipketer warns of dangers in switching nationality. Retrieved on 2016-11-07.
  9. ^ Mulhauser, Dana. On Your Marks. Set. Go Home! Archived 2012-08-04 at Legal Affairs. Retrieved on 2010-10-16.
  10. ^ Men's 3000m Final. IAAF (2006-03-12). Retrieved on 2010-10-15.
  11. ^ Nakamura, Ken (2006-09-20). Historic Shaheen - IAAF World Cup in Athletics. IAAF. Retrieved on 2010-10-15.
  12. ^ a b Shaban, Saddique (2009-03-24). Focus on Athletes - Saif Saaeed Shaheen. IAAF. Retrieved on 2010-10-15.
  13. ^ 2009 World XC Championships Senior Race - M Final Archived 2010-06-10 at the Wayback Machine. IAAF. Retrieved on 2010-10-16.
  14. ^ Butcher, Pat (2009-05-08). 13 world leads in Doha - IAAF World Athletics Tour - UPDATED. IAAF. Retrieved on 2010-10-16.
  15. ^ Jalava, Mirko (2009-08-20). Event Report - Men's 5000m - Heats Archived 2009-08-22 at the Wayback Machine. IAAF. Retrieved on 2010-10-16.
  16. ^ Butcher, Pat (2010-10-13). Menjo takes five seconds off course record in Belgrade. IAAF. Retrieved on 2010-10-15.
  17. ^ Martin, Dave (2010-10-24). Ebuya clocks the fastest ever 10 Miles in UK. IAAF. Retrieved on 2010-10-24.
  18. ^ Retirement announcement Archived 2016-08-17 at the Wayback Machine. (2016-29-02) Retrieved on 2016-11-07.

External links

Preceded by
Brahim Boulami
Men's Steeplechase World Record Holder
September 3, 2004 --
Succeeded by
Sporting positions
Preceded by
Salah Hissou
Men's 5000 m Best Year Performance
Succeeded by
Kenenisa Bekele
Preceded by
Brahim Boulami
Men's 3000 m Steeple Best Year Performance
Succeeded by
Paul Kipsiele Koech

  This article uses material from the Wikipedia page available here. It is released under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share-Alike License 3.0.



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