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Pamela Jelimo became a breakout track star at the age of 18, when she won the 800m gold medal at the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games making her the first Kenyan woman to win Olympic gold. She was also the first Kenyan to win the US$1m Golden League Jackpot that same year for winning all her six races in the League. She has also held both the World junior record and the senior African record in the 800m.
A member of the Nandi tribe, Jelimo is a case of the chip falling close to the block. Her mother, Esther Cheptoo Keter, was a promising 200m-400m runner, but the customs of her ethnic group prohibited her from pursuing a career in track. As the last daughter, Esther was not allowed to marry and had to care for her parents in their old age. However, she was allowed to bear children to different men, and so Jelimo was raised by her mother in a family of three brothers and six sisters.
Jelimo started running in 2003, when she was 13 and made her mark by winning at school championships in the sprint double, 400m, 800m, 400m hurdles and the heptathlon. She was sogood, she competed with boys in sprint events to get the challenging competition she needed.
However, her family’s financial woes put severe strain on their ability to pay her school fees. But she did not give up and so began selling milk from the family cattle to pay for school. Added monetary donations from her school headmaster provided the gear she needed to attend Kenya’s Center of Excellence for Distance Running. Her mother was forced to sell her last cow to pay for Jelimo’s exams.
On April 19, 2008, Jelimo ran her first 800m race at the Kenyan trials for the African championships and posted 2mins, 01.02secs. The crowning glory came for the young woman nicknamed The Kapsabeth Express, when she ran away with victory in Beijing.
The following year saw her nowhere close to her Olympic form; she produced dismal performances as a result of an Achilles strain that caused a late start to her season. A string of poor performances followed until 2012 and caused her not to compete in 2013.
Her determination to shake off the rust and successfully defend her 2012 World Indoor title in Poland in 2014 has pushed her to relocate to Nairobi to step up training and get access to a tartan track on which World Indoor Championships races are run.