There are not enough superlatives to describe Kenya’s glorious women in sports. They have blended endurance, discipline, bravery, and beauty in their bids to lead Kenyan casts to victories. From athletics to volleyball and to junior games, their glorious moments in sports are memorable.
Nancy Cherop may not be a household name in Kenyan athletics. Still, she leads the list of young women on a steady rise to the level of bigwigs such as multiple World Record Holder Faith Kipyegon and world champion Mary Moraa, among others.
Cherop, 17, has won four medals for Kenya in international championships this year alone. When world beaters were preparing to fly the Kenyan flag at the 19th edition of the World Championships in Budapest, Cherop was clinching two hard-fought titles at the Commonwealth Youth Games in August.
Cherop won gold in 1500m and 3000m in the Youth contest staged in Trinidad and Tobago.
Kenya finished sixth position on the charts with a total of nine medals (five gold, and four silver), five more than they managed in the last edition in Nassau, Bahamas where they won three gold and a silver.
During the African Under-18 Championships in Zambia in April and May this year, she brought home a gold medal in 1500m and 800m.
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The history of resilience among women in sports cannot be complete without the mention of Faith Cherotich, the newly crowned world bronze medallist.
Cherotich, 19, rose from a humble background to become a World Under-20 3000m steeplechase champion last year before becoming the youngest medallist woman steeplechaser in the history of the World Championships.
Her rise to the big stage was a journey full of hope.
“I am a student at Kalyet Secondary School in Kericho County. I started running while in school and I discovered I was a good athlete. I found a good coach. I started by running the Athletics Kenya weekend meetings and finished top; that is when I discovered my talent and became motivated,” says the new history maker.
She adds: “Before the 2022 World Championships, I feared Ethiopian athletes because I looked at their racing times and I thought it was difficult to achieve such fast speeds. But I later discovered that I could defeat them – that was after we competed during the World Championships.
“I am inspired by Faith Kipyegon. When I was growing up I watched her races and I told myself that I would one day run like her. I want to run like Faith and become a World Cross Country champion like Beatrice Chebet.”
Second, after Faith in achievements on the track is Beatrice Chepkoech, a World Record Holder in the 3000m steeplechase who is fresh from winning silver at the Budapest World Championships.
Chepkoech has inspired a number of athletes; one of them is World 800m Champion Mary Moraa.
Beatrice Chebet also stands tall in the sporting arena.
After winning the gold medal at the World Cross Country Championships in Bathurst, Australia earlier this year, Chebet went ahead to win bronze in 5000m at the just concluded Budapest World Championships.
For Faith Kipyegon her mission after shattering the 1500m, 5000m, and Mile records and topping that up with two gold medals in Budapest in one season, her mission has been to inspire young girls.
“I want my success to inspire young athletes that it is possible to achieve their best,” Kipyegon says.
Before Mary Moraa, Faith Kipyegon, and Beatrice Chebet, world-beaters were comprised of four-time World Champion and Olympic gold medallist Vivian Cheruiyot and World Champion Sally Barsosio among others who started their careers in school.
Hellen Obiri, another star and world champion, is a middle and long-distance athlete who was born in December 1989, in Boginchoncho village, Kisii County. She is now a marathoner and continues to inspire generations.
Obiri attended Ekeonga Primary School and later went to Riruta Central Secondary School in Nairobi.
She was an active athlete as early as during her primary and secondary school years but lost interest in the track to set her sights on studies.
Her father wanted her to pursue a career in athletics when she was a schoolgirl and by 14 years of age, she was taking part in competitions, representing her school in the 200m and 400m during the national athletics competitions.
Apart from her powerful homestretch kicks, Mary Moraa has captured the attention of a hopeful Kenya with her dancing moves at the finish line.
Moraa, who won bronze in last year’s World Championships and a gold medal at the Commonwealth Games, has demonstrated unmatched perseverance and hard work in her rise to stardom.
“I trained with big names such as Beatrice Chepkoech and I never thought I would match their racing prowess. They encouraged me to persevere. At times it was too cold during our morning runs and I contemplated quitting, but I chose to stick with the group,” Moraa, who is preparing to represent Kenya once again at the 2024 Paris Olympics says.
She first burst onto the scene during the World Junior Championships in 2017 before transitioning to the senior level with statement wins.
Volleyball player Emmaculate Nekesa, helped KCB win the Africa club championship in 2022.
She also helped the national team Malkia Strikers break the eight-year AFCON title drought by winning the trophy in Yaounde, Cameroon last month. The setter seems to have perfectly fitted into the shoes of the retired stylish duo of Janet Wanja and Jane Wacu. Her impressive performance did not go unnoticed as she was named the best setter of the tournament.
The ever-green captain has seen it all with Malkia Strikers.
She is one of the longest-serving players in the team, and her impact both on and off the pitch inspired Malkia to their tenth-record AFCON title in Cameroon. She was named the best receiver of the tournament.
Angela Okutoyi, 19, is also on the rich list of women sensations who have broken the glass ceiling in sports.
Okutoyi became the first Kenyan girl to win an Australian Open juniors match and the first to go past the second round at a Grand Slam tournament.
Her presence in Melbourne marked Kenya’s appearance at the Grand Slam tourney after a 16-year absence.
Okutoyi introduced herself to the tennis world in 2018, winning six major titles.
She has overcome numerous challenges to rise to the top. Okutoyi and her twin sister, Roselida Asumwa never set eyes on their mother, who died during delivery in 2004.
“I come from a humble background. Growing up, I was heavily into sports like cricket and tennis and my grandmother and coach were very supportive, but I knew deep down that they were struggling to see me succeed,” Okutoyi says.
SHARON CHEPCHUMBA AKA CHUMBA
KCB won club championships in 2022 in Tunisia. Interestingly, Moim, Nekesa, and Chumba were all teammates before Chumba joined the paid ranks in Greece.
Chumba’s impressive performance in Cameroon saw her being named the Most Valuable Player at the recently concluded AFCON in Cameroon. Just like Chumba, her former school Kwanthanze Girls have been a joy to watch after they won the East Africa Secondary School Games title in Huye, Rwanda last month.
Earlier this year, six-time regional volleyball champions Kwanthanze became African champions. The girls’ volleyball team thrashed hosts Morocco 3-0 to clinch the African School Games title in Casablanca, and in the process inspired Kenya.
Kwanthanze Girls under coach Justine Kigwari have made Kenya proud and demonstrated the raw talent among our juniors on several occasions.
Kigwari, who has been nurturing players for top Kenyan women’s volleyball clubs and national team Malkia Strikers, was quick to acknowledge support from the Machakos County government and how volleyball fans helped achieve this success.