NAIROBI, Kenya, July 22-Having a friend who stepped up to senior running after bagging four global titles as a junior is the added motivation Agnes Tirop needs as she prepares to upgrade her bronze medal from Barcelona to gold in Eugene, Oregon.
Tirop, 18, is keen on following the golden footsteps of compatriot, Faith Chepng’etich who won at the 2011 World Youth, 2012 World Juniors as well as the 2011 and 13 World Cross junior 6km races when she lines-up for the women’s 5000m race at the 10th IAAF World Juniors in USA that start Tuesday.
Tirop met Chepng’etich when the pair made the Barcelona World Juniors squad a couple of years ago and struck a close friendship that blossomed a year later when she won silver behind Chepng’etich at the Bydgosczcz 2013 World Cross junior race in Poland.
“We met at the Barcelona World Juniors in 2012 and ran together at the Poland World Cross again the following year and this year, we were in Kampala (Africa Cross). She has motivated me a lot. We are both small and we became close and she would tell me I will win like her.
“She talks to me a lot and she has asked me to graduate to the seniors with the World Junior gold. That is what I want to do and God willing, it will happen in Eugene,” explained Tirop.
She was among the squad of 27 athletes that left for the US last Thursday hoping to supplant the hosts and return as the overall winners at the biennial IAAF event open to athletes aged 20 and below.
Born in Mosoriot, Nandi County, Tirop has already established herself as one for the future having already medalled at the World Juniors when she returned with the bronze from Barcelona two years ago.
The seventh born in a family of 10 attended Olbutenet Primary School before joining Kosirai High School in Uasin Gishu where she is a Form 1 student.
She got her first taste of athletics as a Standard 4 pupil at Olbutenet and since then, she has not looked back.
Her breakthrough came in 2012 when she made the squads for the Africa Cross Country and Barcelona World Juniors, medalling at both. Having followed Chepng’etich to the line during the National XC on 18 February, Tirop took silver behind her established compatriot in South Africa over 6km exactly a month later for her first medal in Kenyan colours.
“I will never forget South Africa. It was my first trip outside the country, the first time to board a plane but I was not afraid. Faith made it easy for me, I kept close to her all the time,” she told.
At the Trials for the Barcelona World Juniors, she was beaten by Caroline Jepkoech (15:49.1 against 15:49.6) to the line but secured the second automatic berth where she went ahead to bag the third medal (15:36.74) behind Ethiopian pair, Buze Diriba and Ruti Aga.
“I did not have much help in front and in the end, they were stronger but I was pleased with coming home with a medal.” Her talent came to the fore in Spain and she was signed by Italian manager, Gianni Demadonna.
In 2013, World Cross silver followed before she made her IAAF Diamond League (DL) debut with four outings in Hengelo, Oslo, Zurich and Rieti; running personal bests over 3000m and 5000m of 8:39.13/14:50.36 in Italy and Sweden.
With Chepng’etich graduating to the senior ranks at the start of this year, Tirop duly stepped into her Africa Cross Country junior women crown in Kampala and after three DL outings in Doha, Lausanne and Rome before returning home to lead the queue for Eugene World Juniors in her favoured 5000m, taking the race in 15:40.6 on 25 June.
“I was very excited after winning my first ever gold medal for my country. My friend Chepng’etich won the senior women for the first time and before I ran, she told me I could do it,” she said.
-Picture from iaaf.org