NAIROBI, September 18 – They came out in their thousands, young and old, men and women from all walks of life.
Shops stayed closed, so did schools as pupils and students joined in the welcoming party.
Kapsabet was at absolute standstill as Olympic champion Pamela Jelimo made her homecoming at Kaptamok Village, Koyo on Thursday.
Forty years after laying out a grand welcome to Kenya’s legend and long distance running icon Kipchoge Keino after the 1968 Olympics, The Nandi district was heaving with expectation as it awaited its latest sensation.
Ecstatic members of the public lined up the roads as the 200 car convoy stretching 3 kilometres snaked its way into the sleepy village which gave rise to the 19 year old wonder girl.
Security was tight and heavy. Police officers on foot and in vehicles created a formidable security cordon ensuring that the prodigy was out of harm’s way.
Having watched her grow up in the neighbourhood, the entire village man for man was out to receive their heroine in her new status a truly global superstar. From Eldoret Airport, to Mosoriot, Chepterit and finally Kapsabet Town, it was a sea of humanity.
And she did not disappoint. Clad in colourful pink complete with a headgear, Jelimo waved at the public from the roof of a car, stopping for courtesy calls and acknowledging the cheering crowd.
Jelimo touched down at Eldoret Airport shortly after ten sending the crowd into frenzy. An hour later her convoy started the journey to her birthplace arriving in Kapsabet at 12:30pm.
Here she cut the tape to open Jelimo Street– a road named after her which connects to the town to Eldoret’s Kipchoge Keino Stadium.
Jelimo then embarked on the final leg of her journey home making numerous stops through Namkoi, Kipsigak, Kaptumo before arriving at her home.
At her home, huge celebrations were already underway as traditional songs, dancers and choirs took turns to entertain the gathering.
Minister for Sports Hellen Sambili and her Higher Education counterpart Sally Kosgei led the way with praises as politicians and local leaders heaped praise on the youngster who then finally cut the ceremonial cake to kick off the party just after 4pm.
Thursday was the culmination of a three day welcome for the World junior record holder.
Her arrival sparked wild celebrations at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport on Tuesday night.
Then on Wednesday, she met President Mwai Kibaki and Prime Minister Raila Odinga at Harambee house where she was presented with Sh2.55 million as reward for her exemplary performances in Beijing.
Jelimo became the first Kenyan woman to win an Olympic gold when she won the women’s 800 metres race in Beijing. Then a month later, she became the first Kenyan and only the second African to win the IAAF $1 million golden jackpot after winning all six races at the Golden League meetings.