NAIROBI, Kenya, February 21- In 2009, Ronald Kwemoi’s education was cut short when his parents could no longer afford school fee leaving him to turn to the only talent he possessed to make it in life- running.
The lanky lad, now 18, is on the throes of reaping the best possible reward for believing in his abilities should he replicate his performance when he soared to victory in the junior men 8km race at the Kenya Cross Country Championships during the March 24 IAAF World Cross Country Championships in Poland.
Even if he fails to scale to the top of the podium, racing at the global showpiece will no doubt open up seamless opportunities for the confident teenager who must have felt that his life had come to end in a nation where success in education is the precursor to opportunity.
“At first, I started training at Chebyuk (Location) where I come from but with time, I moved to Iten. I’m expecting much in the future since I have been working hard. I do not want to let my country down since it is my first time in the team,” said Kwemoi, who was at first overwhelmed with the effort he put into string his triumph that he gave the media quite a run around gushed when he eventually settled down.
“I was expecting to do well since I have been training hard but making the team is amazing.”
Kwemoi’s fortunes started changing for the better in October last year.
He and his coach Godwill Kipruto – who had moved him to Iten, the self-styled University of athletics to seek better opportunity – met athletes’ representative Juan Pineda, who helped him secure training equipment.
And the Spanish manager was at Nairobi’s Uhuru Gardens beaming ear-to-ear as he watched his new talent deploy a sizzling final lap to complete the 8km course in a winning time of 23:11 and book his slot in the Kenyan team for the March 24 World Cross ahead of all comers in his event.
“It’s been an amazing development for him. He has rich talent and he is very focused on what he is doing since he wants to get to the highest level in the sport,” Pineda said of Kwemoi whose feat drew a battery of local and international reporters to him like a moth.
“I have never competed abroad and I’m looking forward to my first outing. I decided not to hesitate on my talent; I’m not in the sport for money since I love running.”
“When my parents could not afford to send me to school, I decided to turn to training and my dream is to compete at the top,” said Kwemoi the latest in a long line of prodigious distance running talent to emerge from his country asserted.
His finest hour thus far came when Kwemoi put together a breath-taking last lap to edge out Japan-based Leonard Barsoton, who was in charge at the bell, for the honours in 23:11 against 23:17.
Moses Mukono, another from the revered Irish coach Bro Colm O’Connell production line, romped home third in 23:21 after leading the race for most part.
“It was God’s grace that what I had planned came to pass. I knew I had to be close to the leaders throughout the race and wait for the right moment to breakaway. It was hot out there but in the end, I’m happy it worked,” he said.
The mentors to the former Kubra Primary School pupil in his native Mount Elgon include the reigning Olympics steeplechase champion, Ezekiel Kemboi and the 2008 Beijing winner, Asbel Kiprop.
Closer home, he idolises the Masai family that has produced successful siblings, Moses, Linet and Dennis who have all won international honours and hail from a neighboring village.
He is one of the six athletes selected to defend the title won by Geoffrey Kipsang Kamworor at the last World Cross in Punta Umbria two years ago.
The junior men 8km line-up was the only category that Athletics Kenya selectors ruled against including wildcard selection.
Kwemoi, Barsoton and Mukono will be joined by Emanuel Bett, Bernard Kipkemoi and World Junior steeplechase titleholder Conseslus Kipruto in the Bydgoszcz World Cross squad.