Pamela Jelimo and Hellen Obiri’s comeback feats are stories of self-belief, determination, discipline and hard work.
When the two wonder girls struck at the World Indoor Championships in Istanbul, Turkey, on Sunday, their inspiring performances were ruthless yet comprehensive and satisfying.
The duo fittingly earned praise from, among others, Athletics Kenya chairman Isaiah Kiplagat and Gregory Kilonzo, one of the coaches who have been handling Jelimo and at whose Riruta Central Obiri was nurtured.
Jelimo and Obiri’s victories in 800 metres and 3,000m, respectively, made them Kenya’s only other World Indoor winners after Wilfred Bungei’s 800m gold at Moscow 2006.
Kiplagat, who was in Instabul, described the performance as great and Kenya’s best ever at the Indoor, the country having scooped four medals – two gold, silver and bronze.
“The Indoor is not our specialty but [Istanbul] has shown we can post better results,” he said. “We have started the year well, a good omen ahead of the London Olympic Games.”
Describing Jelimo as “incredible” and Obiri “sensational”, Kiplagat said: “We didn’t expect Jelimo to win a medal on her major comeback.
“It shows what she is capable of doing and, for sure, she is poised to retain her Olympic title. Obiri, on the other hand, is a potential 1,500m and 5,000m medal hopeful in London.”
After she became the first woman to win Kenya an Olympic Games gold medal, at the 2008 Beijing Games, Jelimo’s dream of excelling further was hampered by injuries.
Obiri was in the leading pack of four in the 2011 World Championships 1,500m final in Daegu when she was tripped and crashed heavily to settle for seventh place in four minutes, 20.23 seconds in a race won by Jennifer Simpson of the United States.
It has been Jelimo and Obiri’s desire to put these misfortunes behind them and they did just that, making their intentions clear with the London Olympics only five months away.
Jelimo trashed her gun-to-tape front running style and opted to stay in the middle of the pack before shooting from the outside with 80 metres to go. She would triumph in a world-leading 1:58.53 ahead of Ukraine’s Nataliia Lupu and Erica Moore (USA), who registered personal best times of 1:59.67 and 1:59.97, respectively.
Kilonzo, based in Riruta Satelite, Nairobi, remarked: “Her victory will definitely unlock the old Jelimo.”
Thrilling powerful chase
A tactful Obiri (8:37.16) also stayed in the middle but cautiously on the outside, producing a thrilling powerful chase to go past defending champion Meseret Defar (8:38.26) with 60 metres to go and cross the finish line ahead of the Ethiopian and her compatriot Gelete Burka (8:40.18).
Augustine Kipchoge (7:41.77) and Edwin Soi (7:41.78) won silver and bronze in a 3,000m race won by Kenyan-born American Bernard Lagat (7:41.44) as 5,000m world champion Mo Farah (Britain) fizzled to fourth.