Since 2005, when the women’s 3,000 metres steeplechase race debuted at the Helsinki World Championships, Kenya has landed a medal in each edition.
First it was Jeruto Kiptum who won bronze in the Finnish capital and, two years later, Eunice Jepkorir secured a similar medal in Osaka, Japan. She went one better to win silver at the Beijing Olympics last year.
But Kenya’s fans of the water jump race are not sure what to expect at next week’s World Championships in Berlin, Germany, with Jepkorir out expecting a baby.
For long, Kenyan men have made the race the country’s speciality. Although the women have made sure they keep their counterparts in check, former coach Julius Kirwa is a concerned man.
At the national trials last month, Kirwa was hopeful that at least two athletes will make the cut. He was rewarded with three – Ruth Bosibori, Gladys Kemboi and Milka Chemos.
At the age of 19, Bosibori set the world junior best time of 9:25.25 when she finished fourth in Osaka. She went on to improve the time to 9:24.51 in Seoul, South Korea.
But the All Africa Games inaugural champion has never shown the same form that characterised her ascent to the top of the world two years ago. She had little impact at the Beijing Olympics, where she set her personal best time of 9:17.35, finishing sixth.
“I want to do well. I may have faltered at the trials (she was fifth), but I have recovered and keen to battle for my place at the top again,” said Bosibori after the team was selected.
World Junior champion Christine Kambua Muyanga is also out of the trip to Berlin, with an ankle injury. But Kenya’s head coach, Peter Mathu, has kept faith with the three women and is optimistic of gold.
“They are a strong team. We have always done well in steeplechase. The absence of Jepkorir does not tilt the scales to our opponents’ favour,” Mathu said.
Kenya’s hopes now lie with 21-year-old Bosibori, the Africa steeplechase record holder, as well as Kemboi and Chemos of Kenya Police.
Favourite during the Africa Athletics Championship in Addis Ababa last year, Bosibori could however only manage third place in 10:00.18. At the Berlin trials she finished fifth but was saved by the coach’s wild card.
“I need to train harder,” Bosibori said. “I have been consistent, but now I want to win the gold.” And Kirwa said on Bosibori: “Don’t rule her out yet; she might be the dark horse as was the case in Osaka.”