Why I set up Kapchemoiywo camp­, legend Jepkosgei speaks out

Why I set up Kapchemoiywo camp­, legend Jepkosgei speaks out

The dwindling fortunes of Kenya in short and middle distance races led former world 800m champion Janeth Jepkosgei to think outside the box and start Kapchemoiywo training camp in her Nandi County backyard.

The athlete fondly known as ‘Eldoret Express’ took the world the world by storm as she dominated the middle-distance race for more than a decade rising from the junior to senior ranks.

Jepkosgei announced her entry at the global scene in 2002 when she won gold at the World Junior Championships in Kingston, Jamaica, a win that acted as a springboard to much, much success

Four years later, Jepkosgei bagged gold medals in Commonwealth Games and African Championships before winning her maiden gold medal at the world championships in 2007 in Osaka, Japan.

At the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing, China, Jepkosgei settled for silver before winning another silver medal the following year at the World Championships held in Berlin, Germany after finishing behind South Africa’s Caster Semenya.

Despite placing third at the 2011 World Championships, Jepkosgei’s bronze medal was elevated to silver after Russian Mariya Savinova, who claimed gold, was stripped off her medal following a doping ban.

With the 2015 World Championship being her last outing for Kenya, it is the same year that she retreated to her rural home of Kabirirsang in Nandi County and laid the foundation stone of the training camp whose major focus is on junior athletes.

Fast forward to 2019, the camp has enrolled 86 athletes drawn from different primary and secondary schools not only in the area with some – hailing from other counties – joining the camp that operates during the school holidays.

“I started this camp because as an athlete I love this sport wholeheartedly. I realized that we have so many young athletes with a lot of potential but without any support; that’s why I decided to come in handy with what God blessed me with and support these kids.

She added: “I am happy with the progress so far because most of our athletes have been performing very well in school games; some going as far as East Africa Games,” said Jepkosgei.

Due to her efforts, Kabirirsang village is one of the shining lights. The village has also produced renowned athletes including former world 800m record holder Wilson Kipketer as well as former champion Wilfred Bungei.

Kabirirsang is also home to legendary athletes Kipchoge Keino and Henry Rono who recently returned from USA.

Although Jepkosgei has not officially announced her retirement from the sport, she has already ventured into coaching.

“I am still training as an athlete but I have slowly transitioning into coaching. I have started with the young athletes although sometimes I assist elite athletes like (Eunice) Sum and (Jonathan) Kitilit,” she said.

Although the athletes train at the Kapchemoiywo Girls Secondary School, she hopes to establish her own facility to host the athletes in future.

Although Jepkosgei has not officially announced her retirement from the sport, she has already ventured into coaching.PHOTO/Gilbert Kiprotich/Citizen Digital

The camp was selected by Athletics Kenya (AK) as one of its 14 countrywide camps set up for this year’s World Under-20 Championships prospects with AK Youth Committee chairman hailing Jepkosgei for her efforts in nurturing youngsters.

“We are very happy to associate with athletes like Jepkosgei who have devoted their resources and time to develop athletics. We urge more athletes to mentor youngsters because this is the only way to sustain our dominance,” said Jepkosgei.

At the same time, Jepkosgei has also blamed poor transition to Kenya’s recent decline in the 800m race.

“If you look at the 800m race you will find that apart from Sum, all of us started from the youth to junior before we entered the senior level. However, nowadays you find out that there is a disjoint between the juniors and seniors which I think is costing us dearly,” she observed.