Even as Olympic champion and 2008 Golden League winner Pamela Jelimo struggles to maintain her supremacy in 800 metres and even dash for a World Championship title in her speciality, a schoolgirl waits in the wings to steal the global show in the two-lap race.
World Junior 800m silver medallist Winnie Chebet, banking on four silvers in both youth and junior ranks and basking in her 2:04.13 personal best she posted in Poland World Junior, intends to emulate the great Jelimo.
She confirmed her fine form as she won her speciality in an amazing time of 2:05.9 at the just-ended New KCC/Athletics Kenya national athletics championships at the Nyayo National Stadium at the weekend.
World Champion Janeth Jepkosgei and Jelimo opted to run the shorter one lap as partners in 4x400m relay. “I want fit in the shoes of Pamela Jelimo. I have no individual athlete to fear as I head to the Africa Junior Championships in Mauritius. I have been winning only silver medals, and this time I want gold,” said Chebet, who won the Africa Junior trials in 2:5.5 at the Nyayo a fortnight ago.
Trains with schoolmates
The 19-year-old form four student at Kiptere Secondary School, Kericho, trains together with her classmate Sheilla Chepkurui, the 2005 World Youth 1,500m champion, and schoolmates Purity Cherotich and Fancy Cherotich, the Commonwealth Games 1,500m and World Youth 800m finalists, respectively.
Chebet’s coach Japhet Kemei of Sigowet Club, Kericho, said he was confident she would lift both the Olympic and World trophies in future.
“She could not perform well this year because she spends most of her time in class since she is a candidate. She has not been in intensive training. But I am certain she will rock the world in 800 metres as her high discipline standards will be helpful,” said Kemei.
The young athlete’s spectacular display of talent came into the limelight during the Tusker International meeting in October 2007 when she finished second behind women’s 800m world champion Janeth “Eldoret Express” Jepkosgei, who set the fastest time on Kenyan soil over the distance.
Chebet, then in form two, clocked an impressive 2:59.0 against Jepkosgei’s 1:59.0. Chebet and Chebii finished second and fifth, respectively, in the Bydgoszcz, Poland, championships last year.
“By the way, the girl who finished second to Jepkosgei is a teenager. She is even more promising. She runs so well,” a commentator was quoted as saying after the Tusker meet.
Four girls from the thin list of 21 runners to the Africa Junior contest are from Chebet’s school while Saseta Secondary, in neighbouring Bureti District, boasts two runners. World Youth 400m finalist Betty Chelagat, who will be in the 800m action, finished form four last year at Kiptere.
The four, who train under Kemei in Kericho, will join their training mates from Saseta – World Cross Country silver medallist Mercy Cherono (3,000m) and World Cross Country runner Jackline Chebii (5,000m) – in the championship this month-end.
Jelimo’s agent, Barnaba Korir, however said the 800m queen will not take part in any of the lucrative races as she will be undergoing intensive training in preparation for the World Championship national trials.
Elijah Lagat, Jelimo’s local coach, says the two-lap race ace has the potential to reclaim her position this year despite her recent dismal performance in the Grand Prix meeting in Rabat, Morocco, and IAAF World Athletics Tour at the Prefontaine Classic in Eugene, United States.