Athletics Athletics

History-defying Jelimo courts London


NAIROBI, Kenya, July 11- Pamela Jelimo is bracing for the next record-defying act in her career of extremities having successfully flirted with history.

A successful title defence at the London Olympics will place her in a class of one as the only female athlete to win the women 800m title twice.

And it is not beyond her.

In 2008, Jelimo dared history as she became the first female athlete from her nation to win an Olympics gold on the track in a remarkable debut season that also saw her clinch the Golden League and African titles.

Nancy Jebet Langat, who will not defend in London, soared to the 1500m crown shortly thereafter in a purple patch 20 minutes at the Bird’s Nest.

After three seasons of personal hurt and ridicule, Jelimo, bounced back to form where she took on another milestone in March and duly scaled the heights as she became the first female Kenyan athlete to bag the top medal at the World Indoor Championships.

Needless to say, Hellen Obiri, another metric mile specialist, won the 3000m minutes later as the Jelimo boon once again wound its magic.

Back on the women two-lap superhighway complete with a fresh coat of shining paint, the ‘Kapsabet Express’ as the Olympics titleholder is nick-named out to command similar acclaim to the famed London buses by retaining her crown.

To her, only one simple formula will work when she lines up for her second Olympics.

“In the Olympics, it is very tough everyone is a champion. I want to work very hard to cross the line before everyone,” she said soon after booking her place in Team Kenya’s squad at the Trials.

Having lost top domestic honours in the past two seasons after a sensational dip in form that saw the ‘Kapsabet Express’ ride into the scrap yard of women 800m running, Jelimo was imperious, crushing all challengers in 1:58.48, her fastest run at high altitude since winning the same event in 1:57.71 on her debut 800m season in 2008.

At the bell, the World Indoor champion took off with such vim that electrified the crowd with Winnie Chebet (2:00.30) and Beijing silver medallist, Janeth Jepkosgei (2:00.47) trailing in her wake to complete the top three.

The podium trio was named to the London bound team before Chebet was axed from the squad after failing to beat the Olympics A-Standard of 1:59.90 and her place taken by Cherono Koech, the Moncton World Juniors silver medallist on Tuesday.

All eyes are however, firmly sixed on Jelimo as she bids to repeat her Beijing success, a feat made more tasking unlike when she broke out with such force in 2008 that she was unassailable.

After Istanbul, Jelimo propelled to a world leading 1:56.94 victory in the opening Diamond League (DL) meeting in Doha (May 11) before breezing to the honours at the Ostrava Golden Spike (1:58.49) on May 25 to confirm her comeback to the top of the women two-lap file.

However, six days later, the ‘Kapsabet Express’ saw a haze of yellow, red and green as Ethiopia’s Fantu Magiso zoomed past the Olympics champion to victory at the Rome Golden Gala DL event.

That compelled Jelimo to knuckle down and return to the ‘garage’ to gain the finishing burst needed to land her a second Olympics gold.

“I have been performing poorly on speed and that is why I ran the 400m at the Nationals,” she admitted after booking her place in London.

Last week, her management Golazo Sports, organised a rare 600m race in Belgium where going flat-out, Jelimo clocked a world leading 1:23.35 and coupled with the 52.14 performance over 400m she recorded at the nationals (June 14), the Olympics winner is stocking on the thrust needed to power her to gold.

“I will run my own race, everyone is in shape. I will train harder than usual and I don’t want to be over confident. I feel that I’m getting close to the shape I was in before,” she underlined her London objective.

Having challenged history and emerged triumphant before, no one can bet against the 22-year-old charting new territory in London.