NAIROBI, Kenya, Dec 7 – For those who were lucky to watch her meteoric rise to the pinnacle of the women’s middle-distance running, Pamela Jelimo is a household name in Kenya and worldwide.
She burst onto the scene as a speedy 18-year-old and announced herself to the world when she stormed to gold in the women’s 800m at the Beijing Olympics in 2008.
Indeed, her resume reads of someone who has been there and done that, earning a knack for setting firsts in her career.
She was the first Kenyan to clinch the Golden League jackpot in 2008 after winning all the six legs of the series.
Jelimo also boasts of the national junior record in the women’s 800m courtesy of the 1:58.70 she clocked at the 2008 Africa Athletics Championships in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.
However, all these are a surprise to Jelimo’s three children who just recently learnt that their mother is a famous athlete who brought so much honour to Kenya.
Nandi Express, as she was often nicknamed, was on Wednesday awarded a bronze medal from the 2012 London Olympics after the winner of the women’s 800m at the event, Mariya Savinova, was slapped with a four-year ban for doping.
Jelimo had finished fourth in the event but Savinova was stripped of the gold won over a decade ago, pushing up the Kenyan to the third place.
Commenting on how her children had received news that their mother was to be awarded a medal, Jelimo said they were surprised.
“What I have learnt now that I have this medal is patience. For 10 years, I have been waiting. Now my kids are seeing me on TV and they are asking, ‘were you an athlete? Why are you being given a medal,” Jelimo said.
The 33-year-old has been missing in action since her last race in February 2014 at the Eaubonne Meeting National in France where she finished fifth in the women’s 800m.
Jelimo said she would not force any of her children follow in her footsteps rather would let each one of them chart their own career paths.
“You know …succeeding in sports demands passion and hard work. That’s why I insist on running clean. As a parent, we should be good examples to our young ones as sportspersons and they will take after us. When your kid sees how much you work hard in your craft, they will definitely follow in your footsteps. If any of my kids gets to the Olympics like I did, I would be the happiest mother around,” the mother of three said.
Commenting on her belated honour, Jelimo described it as a bittersweet moment considering she has had to wait close to decade to find justice.
“I kind of feel sad because it has taken this long to receive my due. Even the financial windfall that would have come from being awarded this medal, had to take this long before it would materialize. All in all, it is a great day for me and am honoured to receive this medal,” she said.
The 2012 World Indoor 800m champion warned athletes not to take shortcuts to success but to be patient, work hard and trust in themselves to reap rewards on the track and field.
“I’d like to tell them to run clean…imagine receiving a lifetime ban at a young age because of doping. That is a life wasted…just be patient and work hard and all your efforts will be rewarded no matter how long it takes,” Jelimo said.
Also feted on the same day were 2007 World 800m champion Janeth Jepkosgei and two-time World 5000m champion Hellen Obiri who were awarded certificates confirming their reallocation in their respective races.
Jepkosgei, who had finished eighth in the same race as Jelimo’s, was upgraded to sixth.
Obiri, on the other hand, was upgraded to eighth after four runners who had finished ahead of her in the women’s 1500m were found to have engaged in doping.