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Pamela Jelimo

Pamela Jelimo

Pamela Jelimo (born 5 December 1989) is a Kenyan middle-distance runner, specialising in the 800 metres. She won the gold medal in 800 metres at the 2008 Olympics in Beijing at the age of 18. She is the first Kenyan woman to win an Olympic gold medal and also the first Kenyan to win the Golden League Jackpot. She holds both the 800 m world junior record and the senior African record over the same distance. Jelimo is also one of the youngest women to win an Olympic gold medal for Kenya.

Pamela Jelimo
Pamela Jelimo at Bislett Games 2008
Personal information
Born5 December 1989 (1989-12-05) (age 32)
Nandi District, Rift Valley Province, Kenya
Height175 cm (5 ft 9 in)[1]
Weight60 kg (132 lb)[1]

Early life

Pamela Jelimo was born in Kiptamok village, Nandi District, Rift Valley Province.[2] Her mother, Esther Cheptoo Keter, was a promising 200 metres and 400 metres runner, but the customs of the Nandi tribe meant that as the last-born daughter she could not marry and had to care for her parents in their old age. However, she was allowed to bear children to different men; thus, Jelimo was raised by her mother in a family of three brothers and six sisters.[3] Jelimo began running in 2003, aged 13, at Koyo Secondary in the Kaptumo division, near Kapsabet.[4] She quickly established herself as an accomplished athlete, winning at schools' championships in the 100 metres, 200 m, 400 m, 800 metres, 400 metres hurdles, and heptathlon.[5] Her high school games teacher Philip Ng'eno remarked that she used to compete with the boys in sprint events as the girls did not provide the competition she needed.[3]

The family was poor and struggled to pay the fees to send Jelimo to secondary school – her two older siblings had already dropped out as they were unable to meet the costs. She refused to quit and began selling milk from the family cattle to pay her fees, traversing steep slopes on foot to sell it at Chemase market.[2] The school headmaster Daniel Maru donated money for track suits and running shoes so that Jelimo could attend Kenya's centre of excellence for distance running. By 2004, Jelimo had reached the local provincial championships in the 400 m.[4] Maru continued his generosity, allowing the young athlete to graduate while she still owed one year's worth of fees. Still, her mother was forced to sell her last cow so Jelimo could take her exams. Her family always supported her education.[3][5]

In June 2007 she finished fifth in the 400 metres race at the Kenyan Championships with a time of 55.82 seconds.[6] She kept improving throughout the season, winning the 400 metres gold medal at the African Junior Championships with a finish of 54.93 s and setting a Kenyan national junior record in the 200 m with 24.68 s. Jelimo was pleased with her accomplishments but her new coach Zaid Kipkemboi Aziz suggested that she change to 800 m, stating that she would perform best over the longer distance. She began working for the Kenyan police force and was training with fellow Kenyan runner Janeth Jepkosgei.[4]

Jelimo ran her first 800 metres race on 19 April 2008 at the Kenyan trials for the African championships, clocking 2:01.02 minutes.[7] Despite her budding athletics career, she continued to work at the Embu Police station as a police constable, earning KSh 11000 a month (roughly 100 ).[8]

Breakthrough and Olympic Gold 2008

She made her breakthrough at the 2008 African Championships in Athletics aged 18.[9] Her time, 1:58.70, was a new national junior record. On 25 May 2008 she won 800 metres at the Hengelo Grand Prix event and set a new Junior World Record of 1:55.76. The previous record (1:57.18) was set by Yuan Wang of China in 1993.[10] It was also a new Kenyan record, previously held by Janeth Jepkosgei (1:56.04 in 2007).[11] On 1 June 2008 she ran an impressive 800 m race in Berlin and won the ISTAF Golden League in 1:54.99, a new African record. The previous African record (1:55.19) was set by Maria Mutola in 1994.

On 18 July 2008 she bettered the record slightly to 1:54.97 in Paris. It was also her fourth consecutive win in ÅF Golden League, where she was one of only two remaining jackpot contenders, the other being high jumper Blanka Vlašić.[12] On 18 August 2008 Jelimo won gold in the 800 metres at the Beijing Olympics. Her time was 1:54.87, again a record. She became the first Kenyan woman to win an Olympic gold medal.[13]

She continued her unbeaten streak by winning the Weltklasse Golden League meeting in Zurich on 29 August 2008 improving her personal best to 1:54.01.[14] This was the third fastest performance ever, behind only Nadezhda Olizarenko and the world record of Jarmila Kratochvílová. At the Memorial van Damme competition in Brussels, the ÅF Golden League final, Jelimo won the 800 metres with a time of 1:55.16.[15] As the only athlete to win the same event at all six Golden League meetings, she won the competition's jackpot of $1,000,000. The only other remaining, Blanca Vlasic, failed to win the last event.[16] She is the first Kenyan to win Golden League jackpot.[17]

She crowned her unbeaten season by winning her race at the 2008 IAAF World Athletics Final. After the event she returned to Kenya for the first time since the Olympic trials and was welcomed by major festivities. On 18 September 2008 in Kapsabet Town, a street Pamela Jelimo Street was named in her honour.[18]

Jelimo was shortlisted for the IAAF World Athlete of the Year women's category alongside Yelena Isinbayeva and Tirunesh Dibaba, but the award was won by Isinbayeva. Jelimo was awarded the IAAF Revelation of the Year Award and the 2008 Kenyan Sportswoman of the Year Award.[19][20]

Decline (2009–11)

She missed the 2009 indoor season due to achilles strain developed while training.[21] Instead, she started her season in April at the Athletics Kenya meeting in Kakamega, running 200 and 1500 metres races for training purposes.[22] On 23 May she ran her first 800 metres race of the year at the Meeting International Mohammed VI in Rabat, Morocco, finishing sixth (time 2:02.46) – it was the first 800 m race that she did not win.[23] Two weeks later she finished last at the Prefontaine Classic meeting in Eugene, Oregon.[24] Due to these dismal results, she concentrated on training for over a month. She successfully returned to track by winning the Heusden-Zolder meeting on 18 July running under two minutes (1:59.59).[25][26]

She competed at the 2009 World Championships but did not finish her semi-final.[27]

Jelimo returned to competition in April 2010, winning the 800 metres race at the Athletic Kenya meeting in Nakuru.[28] She finished 8th at the Diamond League meeting in Shanghai, China.[29] She failed to qualify for the 2010 African Championships held in Nairobi.[30]

At the 2011 Prefontaine Classic she finished last in the 800 metres race, timing 2:09.12, almost nine seconds behind the second last runner, Jemma Simpson.[31] It was Jelimo's best time of the season recorded by IAAF.

2012 comeback

Jelimo celebrating her win at the 2012 World Indoor Championships.

Jelimo had a promising start for the 2012 season finishing second behind Malika Akkaoui of Morocco in an indoor meeting at Lievin, France, running a Kenyan indoor record of 1:59.10 seconds.[32] Her indoor season was crowned by gold medal at the 2012 World Indoor Championships in Istanbul, Turkey, improving her time to 1:58.83 seconds. She was almost a second ahead of the silver medallist Nataliia Lupu of Ukraine.[33]

She began the outdoor season with a win at the Doha 2012 Diamond League meeting in a meeting record time of 1:56.94 minutes.[34] She was beaten by Fantu Magiso at the Golden Gala, but was victorious at the Kenyan trials and then set a world-leading time of 1:56.76 at the KBC Night of Athletics.[35][36]

At the 2012 Olympics, Jelimo finished in fourth place. In November 2015, the World Anti-Doping Agency recommended two Russian women who finished in first and third be given lifetime bans for their doping violations at the Olympics.[37] The International Olympic Committee has issued disqualification for Mariya Savinova. The IOC has not disqualified the other athlete and did advance the other finishers up one placement, Jelimo was awarded the Bronze medal.[38]

Personal life

Jelimo married Peter Kiprotich Murrey, who is also an 800 metres runner, in late 2007. They could not afford a grand wedding and instead had a simple civil ceremony. The marriage was not revealed in public until December 2008.[39] Their daughter was born in 2015.


Personal bests

Date Event Venue Time
July 2007 200 metres Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso 24.68 secs
26 June 2008 400 metres Nairobi, Kenya 52.78 secs
29 August 2008 800 metres Zürich, Switzerland 1:54.01 mins
17 April 2009 1500 metres Kakamega, Kenya 4:19.31 mins

Correct as of 10 October 2008. All information from IAAF profile.

Competition record

Representing  Kenya
2007 African Junior Championships Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso 3rd 200 m [40]
1st 400 m
2008 African Championships Addis Ababa, Ethiopia 1st 800 m 1:58.70
2nd 4 × 400 m relay 3:37.67
Olympic Games Beijing, China 1st 800 m 1:54.82
World Athletics Final Stuttgart, Germany 1st 800 m
2009 World Championships Berlin, Germany 20th (h) 800 m 2:03.50
2012 World Indoor Championships Istanbul, Turkey 1st 800 m 1:58.83
Olympic Games London, United Kingdom 3rd[41] 800 m 1:57.59


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  2. Bartoo, Vincent (7 September 2008). "Grand reception awaits superstar Jelimo". The Standard. Retrieved 8 October 2008.
  3. Rice, Xan (4 October 2008). "Bittersweet return for Olympic star". The Guardian. Retrieved 8 October 2008.
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  10. Ramsak, Bob (24 May 2008) Saladino, Jelimo and Gebrselassie the stars in Hengelo – IAAF World Athletics Tour IAAF Retrieved on 14 December 2008
  11. Jelimo sets new world junior record Daily Nation(26 May 2008) Retrieved on 14 December 2008
  12. Turner, Chris (18 July 2008) Jelimo 1:54.97; Robles 12.88; Wariner 43.86 in Paris - ÅF Golden League, Paris IAAF Retrieved on 14 December 2008
  13. Okoth, Omulo (18 August 2008) Kenya wins two Olympic gold medals Archived 21 August 2008 at the Wayback Machine The Standard Retrieved on 14 December 2008
  14. Weltklasse 2008 results Weltklasse Retrieved on 14 December 2008
  15. "Memorial Van Damme 2008". IAAF. 5 September 2008. Retrieved 7 September 2008.
  16. "Jelimo wins Golden League jackpot". International Herald Tribune. 5 September 2008. Retrieved 7 September 2008.
  17. Kenya's heroine Jelimo spurs stampede at home arrival Archived 9 October 2008 at the Wayback Machine AFP (16 September 2008) Retrieved on 14 December 2008
  18. Ng'Etich, Peter (18 September 2008) Pomp as street is named after million dollar girl Daily Nation Retrieved on 14 December 2008
  19. Makori, Elias (23 November 2008) Bolt and Isinbayeva named top athletes for '08 Daily Nation Retrieved on 14 December 2008
  20. Kamuzo Banda, Tim (23 January 2009) Moment of glory for Wanjiru and Jelimo The Daily Nation Retrieved on 23 February 2009
  21. Mutwiri, Mutuota (18 February 2009)Jelimo cancels trips to indoor meetings The Standard Retrieved on 23 February 2009
  22. IAAF, 19 April 2009: Cheruiyot and Jelimo spice-up Kakamega track meet Retrieved on 20 April 2009
  23. Athletics Weekly, 23 May 2009: Meadows stuns Jelimo in Rabat Archived 27 May 2009 at the Wayback Machine
  24. The Standard, 9 June 2009: Olympic medallist Kiprop tops Oregon meeting
  25. NACHT VAN DE ATLETIEK: 800m Women ; Official result
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  27. "2009 IAAF World Championships - 800 metres women semi-final results". Archived from the original on 29 June 2011. Retrieved 17 August 2009.
  28. Daily Nation, 3 April 2010: Excitement as Pamela Jelimo returns to track with victory
  29. IAAF: 2010 Diamond league - Shanghai - Women's 800m results Archived 25 May 2010 at the Wayback Machine
  30., 26 June 2010 :Struggling Jelimo bows out of title defence Archived 9 August 2010 at the Wayback Machine
  31., 4 June 2011 2011 Prefontaine Classic Distance Races: Lagat, Verzbicas, Kaki And Sinclair Impress
  32. The Standard, 5 March 2012: Jelimo storms back
  33. IAAF, 11 March 2012: EVENT REPORT - Women's 800 Metres - Final
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  37. Gibson, Owen (9 November 2015). "Russia accused of 'state-sponsored doping' as Wada calls for athletics ban". The Guardian. Retrieved 9 November 2015.
  38. "IOC ready to strip medals from Russians - Article - TSN". TSN. 10 November 2015. Retrieved 3 May 2018.
  39. Mutuota, Mutwiri (12 December 2008) Marital bliss for million-dollar girl Archived 28 August 2009 at the Wayback Machine The Standard Retrieved on 14 December 2008
  40. WORLD JUNIOR ATHLETICS HISTORY ("WJAH") African Junior Championships 2007 Archived 7 April 2014 at the Wayback Machine
  41. Arzhakova was later disqualified due to a doping violation
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