Athletics Athletics

Time for much needed Jelimo magic


NAIROBI, Kenya, August 7- Since coming from the blues to rule the world in 2008, Olympic champion, Pamela Jelimo, has established herself as a trendsetter for Kenyan female runners.

Thus far, her heralded female compatriots have failed to illuminate London 2012 by bagging the craved gold placing more expectations Jelimo will once again provide the tonic when she takes to the track on Wednesday at 2:02pm local time in her women 800m heat.

At the Beijing Olympics, Jelimo became the first woman to bag the top medal when she led compatriot Janet Jepkosgei to the line in the two-lap final, stopping the clock at a staggering 1:54.87.

It took less than 20 minutes for Nancy Jebet Langat to take to the Bird’s Nest and deliver the second gold in one of the biggest shocks of Beijing 2008.

In March, Jelimo’s magic weaved itself again at the Istanbul World Indoors when she ran a world leading 1:58.83 to secure her nation her first ever female title at the closed circuit event.

Needless to say, Hellen Obiri was inspired by that performance to race to the women 3000m crown moments later.

With double world champion, Vivian Cheruiyot, two-time London Marathon winner, Mary Keitany failing to land the middle slot at the podium as Sally Kipyego and Priscah Jeptoo won women 10000m and marathon silver medals, the Team Kenya female squad needs their captain to step up and deliver the much needed stimulation.

“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 on June 23.

“Nothing would make me happier than defending my title and becoming the first woman to win the 800m title twice. I will however, run my own race and I do not want to underestimate anyone or be over confident,” she further underlined as she departed to London to face destiny.

That Jelimo is carrying soaring hopes for her nation is in itself a triumph having endured three seasons of hurt following her barnstorming 2008 where the Kiptamuk Village born runner came from the backwaters to command global acclaim.

At the 2009 Worlds in Berlin, the forlorn figure of Jelimo being carried off the Olympiastadion after she failed to finish her semi was the start of a spiral through the drain that saw her disappear from the radar of her sport.

Battling knee injury and a catastrophic loss of form, Jelimo changed her training base from Kapsabet to Ngong at the tail end of last year after acquiring the services of US coach, Ben Engelhardt.

“I ran so many races at such a high pace. After 2008, I had to recover and my body did not respond as I expected. I trained so hard and all over a sudden I got an injury.

“I participated in the Kenyan Trials for the 2009 World Championships and ran in Berlin where I forced myself to run with the injury. After that, I decided to take a break to build my confidence back,” Jelimo explained in February.

“It was painful as an athlete to see your friends running. You want to do more for your country but with an injury, it is so bad, you cannot do that. People close to me, my family and my company (Golazo Sports) offered me so much support,” she told of her pain.

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 saw her retreat home to seek speed and she duly won the national 400m title in 52.14 before competing in the rarely ran 600m where she stopped the clock in a world leading 1:23.35 in Belgium after qualifying for the Olympics by winning the Trial.

In London, Jelimo will once again be paired with Jepkosgei, the 14-time medallist for Kenya and Cherono Koech, the debutant who got her chance after Winnie Chebet, who was third at the selection event had to bow out since she did not have the Olympics A-Standard.

Koech was sixth at the semis during last year’s Daegu Worlds and won the top medal at the 1999 World Youth in Bressanone.