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How 2014 Commonwealth Gamesb star Stephen Chemlany rose to stardom in distinct fields

Last updated 1 month ago | By Jonathan Komen

Kenya's Stephen Chemlany finishes second in the Men's Marathon race during the Commonwealth Games Glasgow 2014, Scotland, Sunday July 27, 2014. (AP Photo/Peter Morrison)

Stephen Chemlany, the 2014 Commonwealth Games marathon silver medalist, is not your typical Kenyan athlete.

From childhood, Chemlany nursed lofty dreams: to stage excellent shows in athletics and raise his academic CV. And it came to pass.

Hard work and determination are the virtues that can be best used to describe him, and he has summoned all that to excel in athletics and academics with precision and class.

Chemlany, who holds a Master’s degree in Computer Science from New York State Iona College, seems to follow in the counsel of American author Les Brown, who once said: “Shoot for the moon. Even if you miss it, you will still land among the stars.”

Born and raised in Tuiyobei village in Mt Elgon, Chemlany picked up athletics while a Standard Seven pupil at Chesinende Primary School in 1995.

“I loved athletics from the onset. But I never expected to emerge a superstar. I had little hopes in the sport.

“There is no better way to work smart than to have sufficient education. While a young boy, I admired athletics but wanted to be an athlete who will appear in camera eloquently,” he said.

He drew inspiration from the story of local athletics maestro, the late Ben Jipcho, the 1972 Olympic 3000m steeplechase silver medalist.

Chemlany, however, got fired up when he watched his peers, among them 2006 Amsterdam Marathon winner Solomon Bushendich, Andrew Kiplimo, Simotwo Chemlany and Victor Mangusho rip the tracks at the global stage.

“It was then that I made a decision to take athletics seriously. I was also cautious not to dedicate more time to the sport at the expense of class work,” he said.

Kenyatta University

Chemlany sat Kenya Certificate of Primary Education (KCPE) examinations and scored 511 out of a possible 700 marks, and he was selected to join Kakamega High School.

“In high school, I never took athletics seriously. There was stiff competition in class. So, I opted to concentrate on my studies.

“The hard work paid dividends and I scored a mean grade of B+. I was selected to join Kenyatta University to pursue Bachelor of Arts in Education – Mathematics and Geography option,” he said.

There he felt the urge to get back to running and started to train. Chemlany spent two years (2002 and 2003) at Kenyatta University before he made an obtuse thought: to seek US track scholarship.

“It’s through athletics that I emerged among many Kenyans who got student-athlete scholarship to New York State Iona College as a transfer student under eligibility rules of National Collegiate Athletic Association.

“At the Iona College I opted to pursue computer science as major, and minor in mathematics. Computer science is a wide field and for my area, as computer programmer, I studied majorly on programming languages that go in tandem with the machine languages,” said the 38-year-old athlete.

“I graduated with master’s degree from New York State Iona College in 2008. I want to enroll for PhD in two years when I will be 40,” said Chemlany.

Asked if it was an easy task to pursue a science degree while at the same time harbour big dreams in athletics, he said:

“It is a question of time management and it makes it easy to prioritise things. For me, it has not been hard. From childhood, I wanted to study a science course but I never thought of excelling in athletics.

“But I have managed both. I realised that combining the two brings good returns. I like multitasking,” he said.

While still an active athlete, Chemlany joins a long list of veteran athletes who have invested in schools.

He runs his school and manages some athletes for Italian Rosa and Associati stable.

“I am managing my private school. But, as a computer graduate, I work in the computer laboratory. I ensure all computer hardware and software are updated and teach new staff computer lessons. I want to ensure all teachers from Early Childhood Development and subordinate staff are computer literate. I also do transportation business in Kitale, and small-scale farming," he said.

Chemlany is married to Valentine and together have three children; Chepchumba, Enosh and Chebichii.

Some of his training mates are Silas Cheboit, Alex Chepkwik, Erick Ndiema, Lydia Simiyu and Karinga Julius.

Chemlany rose steadily to stardom in athletics, finishing second at the 2011 Berlin Marathon and fourth at the 2013 Berlin Marathon when Wilson Kipsang upstaged Eliud Kipchoge to break the world record. He has also won Dalian Marathon twice.

Chemlany made his debut in the national team at the 2014 Commonwealth games, where he struck silver in men’s marathon. “It made me feel proud since I won the first medal for Kenya at the games. That was my dream,” he said.

He asks athletes to embrace humility, hard work and discipline if they are to multitask athletics and education.

On the latest wave-light technology, which has aided a number of athletes to break world records, he said: “The technology gives athletes a guiding pace or target time through the lights rather than athletes wasting energy looking at the watch. Athletes training is also simple and results in improved times,” he said.


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