Is Beatrice Chepkoech Kenya’s forgotten heroine?

By DENNIS OKEYO: Saturday, October 27th 2018 at 00:12 GMT +3 | Athletics
July 20, 2018 Kenya's Beatrice Chepkoech celebrates winning the Women's 3000m Steeplechase and setting a new World Record REUTERS/

Commonwealth Games silver medallist appeals to Kenyans to vote for her in IAAF Female Athlete of Year awards.

While Beatrice Chepkoech enjoyed exceptional success in 2018 season, chalking up victories breaking World steeplechase record by eight seconds in Monaco Diamond League along the way, she remains relatively an unsung heroine locally.

Her remarkable performance on the track included victory at the IAAF Continental Cup, African Championships, Diamond League Trophy and wining silver in 1500m at the Commonwealth Games, an event which is not her specialty.  

The efforts of 27-year-old have seen her getting nominated for the IAAF Female Athlete of Year Award where she is favourite for the prestigious recognition.

The Kenyan steeplechase specialist, who was born in Kimulot, Bomet County, will battle for the award with Polish hammer thrower Anita Wlodarczyk, the European champion, IAAF Challenge winner and world lead, Caster Semenya of South Africa, unbeaten in nine 800m finals including the Commonwealth Games, African Championships, Diamond League final and Continental Cup.

Others in the nominees list includes Colombia's Caterine Ibarguen, the Continental Cup winner, Diamond League champion and Central American and Caribbean champion at both long and triple jumps, Shaunae Miller-Uibo of Bahamas, unbeaten across five events in 15 races including a 200m and 4x100m relay double at the Continental Cup, World lead and three wins at 400m with the world’s fastest time since 2006, Commonwealth Games and Diamond League champion.

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Beatrice Chepkoech, 3000m steeplechase world record holder speaking during her homecoming at Besiobei village in Konoing subcounty. PHOTO BY GILBERT KIMUTAI / STANDARD

Despite her success, not much can be said about Chepkoech's celebrity status as compared to her compatriot Eliud Kipchoge, who broke the World marathon record in Berlin.

Last week, Kipchoge was among the heroes recognised by President Uhuru Kenyatta at the Mashujaa Day cerebration in Kakamega County and this week, he was declared the United Nations in Kenya Person of Year at a ceremony attended by Siddharth Chatterjee, UN Resident Coordinator and Monica Juma, Cabinet Secretary for Foreign Affairs.

Chepkoech was not even invited to the national celebrations at Bukhungu Stadium and was not even mentioned by the president in his speech.

The soft spoken Chepkoech shot to the limelight when she lost her chance of winning the world 3000m steeplechase title at the IAAF World Championships in London last year after initially missing a water jump and having to run back to go over the hurdle.

She, however, made headlines for the right reasons in Monaco by setting a world record of 8:44.32, taking more than eight seconds off the previous mark.

"I get concerned when people call me asking why I’m not getting as much attention as Kipchoge, sometimes I just switch off my phone to avoid such questions from my fans,” Chepkoech told Standard Sports. “I am not in the same league as Kipchoge and I have been running steeplechase for three years, but records are records, whether in track or marathon."

She added: “I’m appealing to Kenyans to vote for those of us who were nominated for the awards so we can stand a chance of winning."

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