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Meet Kenya's perennial 800 metres silver girl

ATHLETICS By Dennis Okeyo | June 7th 2020
Kenya's 800m and 1,500m athlete Winny Chebet. [Internet]

Winny Chebet, the reigning Africa 1,500m champion, has no doubt ruled the roost in 800 metres in global competitions.

And she basks in five silvers –won in World Youth and World Juniors and other championships –that earned her the ‘silver girl’ tag in athletic circles

The Thika barracks based soldier longs to break away from the tradition and bag more gold medals.

Chebet was dropped from the London Olympic Games team and replaced with 2010 World Junior silver medalist Cherono Koech, who both happens to come from Kericho, the area known for producing the best junior athletes in the country.

She attended Kiptere Secondary School in Kericho. But she has battled her way for long. In 2009, when former Olympic champion and 2008 Golden League winner Pamela Jelimo was struggling to return to form, Chebet was a school girl waiting in the wings.

The 29-year-old athlete, who comes from Roret in Kericho, did better than her silver tag as she won the Africa Senior Athletics Championships in Nigeria in 2018.

She trained under junior coach Japhet Kemei while a student at Kiptere Secondary School in Kericho. She now trains under coach Bernard Ouma at Rongai Athletics Club in Nairobi, where she lives with her elder brother.

“My brother introduced to me to coach Ouma and I started training under him. Later, the coach and his family hosted me for three years at their home. I am so grateful of their help," she said.

Chebet, a corporal at Kenya Defence Forces, said hard work and self-discipline catapulted her to global fame.

At the camp, Chebet remained as the only female athlete. She trains with top athletes among them world 1,500m champion Timothy Cheruiyot, 2017 world 1,500m champion Elijah Manangoi and younger brother George the 2017 world under 18 1,500m champion.

Others are Africa champion Vincent Keter and Millicent Ndoro, the national 200m champion.

Chebet, a mother of five-year-old Brena Cherono, said she and her coach made the best decision to transit from 800m to 1,500m.

“Stepping up to 1,500m was the best decision we made. After 2016 Olympic Games, we decided to improve on endurance for 1,500m and I made my debut at the 2017 London World Championships where I made it to semi finals. I think the best is yet to come out.

“Training with best 1,500m runners has helped me. They encourage me to work hard. They want the best out of me," she said.

She is currently training with Team Cheruiyot ahead of their clash with Norwegian brothers on Thursday in a virtual race dubbed ‘Impossible Games’ which is organised by the Oslo Bislett Games. Kenyan stars in Cheruiyot, Manangoi, Edwin Melli and Timothy Sein will compete against Norwegian brothers in Henrik, Filip and Jakob Ingebrigtsen in a 2000m race to be air live in a split-screen. 

“The ‘Impossible Games’ is a good innovation. Covid-19 rendered sportsmen and women idle after all the sporting events were cancelled due to the virus outspread.

"I saw this as an opportunity for me to keep in form by training with the team. It's helping me get the mileage and endurance ahead of the possible rescheduled Diamond League calendar now that Olympics Games been pushed to next year,” she said.

Chebet targets at a second stab at the Olympic Games having debuted in 2016 in Rio De Janeiro where she bowed out in semi-finals in 800m. At the 2019 Doha World Championships, she finished seventh in 1,500m finals.

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