The sensational 800 metres champion Pamela Jelimo arrived on Thursday in Eldoret and her home village to a rousing welcome.
Hundreds of people thronged Eldoret International Airport on Thursday as early as 7am to have a glimpse of the athlete who has stolen the media limelight in the last two weeks.
Though athletes in the North Rift have excelled, the win of a gold by Jelimo in the Beijing Olympics and the subsequent win of Sh70 million in the Golden League jackpot has left the people in the area in a daze.
With the large number of people turning out at the airport, her win has encouraged many upcoming athletes especially women.
Men feel that her win is a challenge and wonder if they will ever match here prowess in the track.
"I did not use to take my training seriously but Jelimo’s win has really challenged me," James Saina who was one of the upcoming athletes said at the airport where she landed as she headed to her home village in Kaptamok village in Nandi East.
Among those who welcomed her back home at the airport were Industrialisation minister Henry Kosgei, MPs Elijah Lagat of Emgwen, Peris Simam (Eldoret South), former nominated MP Mark Too, Athletics Kenya (AK) chairman Isaiah Kiplagat, former athletes Moses Kiptanui, Daniel Komen among others.
Her MP minister Sally Kosgei who did not attend sent her apologies.
Sports minister Hellen Sambili who accompanied Jelimo as well as her mother Rhoda Cheptoo was all smiles as they landed with her at the airport in a police helicopter at 10.40am.
Jelimo who did not talk much but was elated when she arrived and encouraged people in the area to take athletics seriously. She also called on athletes to work hard saying the sport can take people places.
Nothing come for free but sheer hard work, she said at the airport atop a Land Cruiser vehicle which drove her to her village.
Security around her was tight with people shoving as they tried to have a glimpse of her. Among her security detail was deputy commissioner of police, Jonathan Koskei.
Minister Sambili said she was happy as a Sport minister to be given the ministry since athletes had lifted up the name of her ministry.
I am really happy for you and others who have made me and other people in the ministry in the limelight, she said.
Sambili said her ministry would continue to encourage Kenyans to exploit any available talent and be successful in life.
She said her ministry will work closely with teachers to identify talent in right from school.
Minister Kosgei praised Jelimo saying she was the best ambassador the country has had of late since she started her winning streak during the Beijing Olympics.
The country and in particular the North Rift are happy with your win, you have made us proud, he said. Kosgei said Jelimo had given encouragement to many young girls and added that she should be emulated by upcoming athletes.
He said Kalenjin MPs will meet athletes on October 4 and honour them for making the country proud.
MP Lagat who is a former athlete said he was happy for Jelimo’s win adding that Kenyans who have a potential should be encouraged by their MPs to exploit it.
Now that funds have been availed to all constituencies to encourage sports, I call on youths to come out in large number in different fields they think that they can excel, he said.
After the address at the airport, Jelimo was escorted by a convoy of more than 50 cars to Kapsabet where she opened a street that has been named after her.
Business in trading centres and school which are along Eldoret-Kapsabet road came to a stand still as they lined up along the road to wave to her.
Legendary athlete Kipchoge Keino who is also the National Olympics Committee of Kenya chairman decried the poor status of Keino Stadium in Kapsabet saying the region had produced top class athletes while it was in a dilapidated state.
Mosop MP David Koech said the government should equip schools with sports facilities so that they can excel in the field.
He said some schools lack sports facilities which had made it difficult for the country to make a break through in them.