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Runner has Faith in a gold win and excellence in class

Friday July 6 2012

JARED NYATAYA | NATION | FILE Faith Chepng’etich (right) competing in a past event.

JARED NYATAYA | NATION | FILE Faith Chepng’etich (right) competing in a past event. 

By SAMMY KITULA [email protected]

Only a fraction of the athletes who compete in international events get time to read a magazine while the number of those who read educational material is even smaller.

By all appearances, 18-year old Faith Chepng’etich is different. While she, together with 25 other athletes, left on Friday for the week-long IAAF World Junior Championships in Barcelona before she proceeds to the London Olympic Games, her classmates at Winners High School in Nakuru will be busy covering their syllabi.

But that does not worry the pint-sized runner, as she has packed her mathematics and home science textbooks. And with a daily study timetable already prepared, Chepng’etich won’t be at any disadvantage.

“I have carried my textbooks to Barcelona and London. I know that my classmates will be studying back home, hence the need for me to keep myself busy while away,” Chepng’etich, who is also the World Youth 1,500 metres champion, said.

Barefoot world beater

Last year, Chepng’etich wowed many athletics enthusiasts when running barefoot, won the women’s World Junior Cross Country Championships in Punta Umbria, Spain, completing the 6km course in 18:53.

She was one of the few athletes who ran bare foot in the race. Brilliance Jepkorir and her former Keringet Township Primary School mate Naomi Chepngeno, also had the trust of their bare foot in the 6km event.

But how did it feel to run barefoot?

“(Giggling) [Running barefoot] felt quite comfortable. The course was very muddy and I thought that if I run with my shoes on, I will be slow. But in both Barcelona and London, I’ll have them on,” the form one student said, her innocent smile giving away her ruthless running prowess she has had since her debut in 2009.

But you can’t blame a girl, who only got to wear spike shoes two years ago, at 16.

“I have always run without shoes. I got my first pair in 2010. But they did not fit me and would slow me down because they were big. I tried to train in them but there was no difference,” she said.

The runner burst to prominence when she finished fifth at the 2009 national trials for the World Cross country in Amman but despite having made the cut, she did not travel; reason? According to the national body, Athletics Kenya, her 15 years then, gave her away. She was just too young to compete!

Not the type to be dispirited, she picked herself up and made the team for the 2010 Bydgoszcz World Cross Country where she clocked 19:02 to finish fourth behind Mercy Cherono, Purity Cherotich and Esther Chemtai as Kenya swept the medals on offer.

Chepngetich, with a personal best of four minutes, 03.82 seconds over 1500m, has, however, not had a smooth sail in her running career.

Nearly missed the Kenyan trials

Last year, she nearly missed the Kenyan trials to select the team to the 2011 IAAF World Cross Country Championships in Punta Umbria, Spain, after her a school teacher beat her until she lost consciousness because together with Naomi Chepng’etich, they had declined to repeat Standard Seven.

At 18 years, Chepng’etich will be Kenya’s youngest athlete to the London Games.

“Her young age will no matter in London. She is a good runner, who on a good day can shock any experienced runner,” her coach to world junior championships, Japheth Kipkirui said.