With the 12th IAAF World Championships and most of the medallists in Zurich for Friday’s Weltklasse Golden League meeting, Kenya’s track and field sponsors New KCC Limited can pat themselves on the back for having nurtured raw talent.
New KCC’s corporate affairs head Jane Mbuthia was among the Kenyan supporters in Berlin, urging on the squad to four gold, five silver and three bronze medals for a third overall finish.
And, just as Pamela Jelimo emerged from the New KCC’s track and field series in 2007/8 to win the Olympic gold medal and IAAF Golden League jackpot, another star was born in Berlin, fresh from New KCC’s 2009 track and field series.
Five months ago, world steeplechase bronze medallist Milcah Chemos did not have any interest in athletics, despite showing potential when she joined Kenya Police in 2005.
“We followed her progress and encouraged her throughout the New KCC track and field series, and we are really proud that our support for athletics has continued to produce stars,” Mbuthia said in Berlin.
Chemos was born on February 24, 1986, in Bugaa Village of Mt Elgon District that also boasts Kenya’s gold medallist in the 10,000m in Berlin, Linet Masai, and her brother Moses, a bronze medallist in the men’s race. She went to Matumbei and St Phillips primary schools in Kitale and Maragoli’s St Claire’s Girls High School.
‘Body of a runner’
Her interest in athletics was developed when she joined the police and met her would-be husband Alex Sang, an athlete with a personal best time of one minute, 46.84 seconds in the 800 metres.
“My husband encouraged me to take up athletics, telling me that I have the body of a runner,” said Chemos. “He encouraged me to go to training and drew up my programme. He has been my coach.”
The amiable mother of a three-year-old daughter, Lavine Chemutai, took up active athletics last year when she competed in 800m and 1,500m, finishing fourth in the New KCC national championships two-lap race.
She was seventh (2:09.59) in the trials for the Beijing Olympics, also sponsored by New KCC Limited.
Chemos then realised that her times were not improving and switched to the steeplechase in which, on her debut, she clocked 10:37 in Nyeri before improving to 9:54.40 in winning the New KCC meet in Kakamega.
Her management team, Golazo Sports, which also managed Jelimo and Africa 1,500m champion Haron Keitany, among others, then took her out for her first meeting in Europe where she clocked 9:54.32.
Chemos ran her then personal best 9:22.33 at the KBC Night of Athletics in Heuzden-Zolder, Belgium, attaining the qualifying time for the Berlin championships as she finished third behind Morocco’s Hanane Ouaddou (9:22.12) and Sofia Assefa (9:22.23) of Ethiopia.
She finished in an impressive second place at the New KCC national trials for Berlin behind another raw talent, Gladys Kipkemoi, to grab a ticket to the Worlds.
Berlin was the turning point of Chemos’s career. Not fancied for any podium place, the new find produced a devastating kick at the final water jump to beat pre-race favourite and Olympic champion Gulnara Galkina of Russia to the bronze.
She clocked an astonishing personal best 9:08.57, behind gold medallist Marta Dominguez (9:07.32) of Spain and Russia’s Yuliya Zarudneva (9:08.39).
“I’m very delighted,” Chemos said. “This was my first time to represent Kenya and I was not really expecting anything. With hindsight, the silver would have been possible because the second finisher wasn’t that far ahead. Maybe I didn’t believe in it.”
Fittingly, Chemos, also, the Kenya Police steeplechase champion, dedicated her medal to her husband.
And, encouraged by the endless flow of talent, New KCC have indicated they will sponsor next year’s track and field season that will climax in the African Athletics Championships in Nairobi.