BEIJING, August 11 – Janeth Jepkosgei may have ended Kenyan women runners surprising drought at global titles shorter than 10,000 metres when she won the world 800m crown last year but a piece of good advice may have cost her the ultimate price of Olympic gold.
The 25-year-old former 400 metres hurdler took aside teenager Pamela Jelimo last year and advised her to switch from 400m to 800m – she took her advice and has since beaten her five times in five races and by huge margins.
"She (Jelimo) is a good friend of mine," Jepkosgei said.
"She is still young, so I think she will get more advice from me.
"I got to know her last year and she was doing the 400m in the juniors.
"We come from the same area (Kapsabet) so I took her aside and told her she can run 800.
More than just friends to 18-year-old Jelimo, who considers the older runner to be like her older sister but that will all be set aside once the Olympic title is up for grabs.
"Janet is actually my motivator," said Jelimo.
"She is like my big sister because when I was training for the 400m and Janet was training for 800m. When we came together, she would urge me to train seriously saying: Pamela leave this sprinting and come and we can improve our performance in 800m."
Certainly Jepkosgei’s advice has benefited Kenya’s hopes of landing a middle distance title as the men will struggle against their bitter rivals the Ethiopians but she remains philosophical about whether she can overturn the huge distances that Jelimo has been winning by this season.
"Kenyans should pray for me. I can’t say what I will win but I know for sure that I must win at least a medal," commented Jepkosgei.
"It is a bit disturbing to see Jelimo so far ahead, but everybody runs their own plan – mine is to be in Beijing in better shape."
While Jelimo considers her main rival as being her big sister it is a full blood relative of the teenage prodigy that has provided her main motivation – her mother.
Rodah Jeptoo Keter had aspirations to be a runner as well but it was cut short by marriage at a young age which produced nine children and now one of them stands on the brink of bringing home something that she would have given everything for at one point – Olympic gold.
"During her time there was no motivation in sports," she told AFP in an interview.
"Even then, when she was running well, people were tying her down. They were telling her: Don’t go out there – people are going to kidnap you.
"I am going to do my best in Beijing and improve where my mother did not reach. I want to make her proud," she added of her widowed mum.
Jelimo has made such rapid progress she has already broken legend Maria Mutola’s African record with a new mark of 1:54.97 and remains unbeaten over the distance and is on line for sharing the Golden League million dollars jackpot with just two meetings remaining in Zurich and Brussels.
However, she is keeping her feet firmly on the gorund as regards winning the Olympic title.
"In sports there must be a winner and a loser," Jelimo said. "There must be a number two and number one."