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Kenyan-born Chemtai could run for Israel at Olympics after visa battle

Salpeter, Chemtai and their son Roy. PHOTO Nir Keidar

Salpeter, Chemtai and their son Roy. PHOTO Nir Keidar

JERUSALEM, March 17 – A Kenyan runner may race for Israel in this summer’s Olympics after being granted Israeli citizenship on Thursday.

Lonah Chemtai, a 27-year-old who originally moved to Israel in 2011, had been fighting for citizenship.

Her case received national media attention when she won the Tel Aviv Marathon in February, breaking the qualification time for the Olympics in the process.

Chemtai is married to an Israeli, Dan Salpeter, who is also her coach, and the couple have a young son.

The couple received  the nationality documents on Thursday morning, freeing her up to compete for Israel in this summer’s Olympics in Rio De Janeiro.

“Today I feel so happy,” she told AFP. “To get the citizenship is something not easy.”

She ran the Tel Aviv marathon in two hours, 40 minutes and 16 seconds, nearly five minutes under the qualification time for the Olympics. No other Israeli women has achieved the necessary time.

British runner Paula Radcliffe currently holds the world record for women’s marathon at 2hrs 15mins and 25secs in 2003.

Salpeter admitted the time she achieved in Tel Aviv would have put her towards the back of the pack, but said: “I think she will do much better.”

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Chemtai said she wouldn’t be celebrating too hard tonight though, as she has to get up in the morning to run ten kilometres in the Jerusalem Marathon.

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