Identical twins
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Seeing double? How two sets of inseparable twins are juggling elite sport with office jobs

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Identical twins Maureen Owiti and Alice Owiti who both play hockey. Right: Caroline Gitonga and her twin sister Purity Gitonga, who are both athletes.

Photo credit: Alex Odhiambo and Jared Nyataya | Nation Media Group

It is said that identical twins have a telepathic connection. While this might not be scientifically proven, it is widely acknowledged that identical twins have some kind of special connection that goes beyond what we consider normal senses.

Closer home, cases of identical twins scoring the same, or close to exactly the same, marks in the Kenya Certificate of Primary School (KCPE) or Kenya Certificate of Secondary School Examination (KCSE) examinations is a common occurrence.

Nation Sport spent a day with two sets of twins who share a passion for the same sport, and whose special bond has seen them achieve almost similar success in their respective disciplines.

Caroline Gitonga and Purity Gitonga (athletics)

It is a fairly sunny Friday morning at the Kipchoge Keino Stadium in Eldoret, Uasin Gishu County, and tens of athletes have turned up for their morning track training session as is the norm at this facility that sits right at the heart of this athletics-rich North Rift region.

As is the tradition, most athletes here train in groups, especially when they belong to the same camp or management. 

It is also common to find a group of athletes dressed almost similarly, as they share the same sportswear brands for training and competition.

Amid the bustle of activities, a pair emerges from the northwest corner of the track, negotiating the last 300-metre corner towards the homestretch.

Identical twins

Purity Gitonga (left) and her twin-sister to Caroline Gitonga, who both run 5,000m and 10,000m races, at Kipchoge Keino Stadium in Eldoret town, Uasin Gishu County on May 8, 2024.

Photo credit: Jared Nyataya | Nation Media Group

They are at top speed, their strides rhythmical, as they cross the finish line and they stop their watches almost at the same time.

As they approach, one notices their striking resemblance. 

Besides their similar training gear - purple top and tights and white running shoes - they look exactly like one other.

These are the Gitonga twins – Caroline Gitonga and Purity Gitonga – aged 28 and based in Iten, Elgeyo Marakwet County.

They are elite athletes – running for a living – and, just like many other elite athletes, the world-famous high altitude conditions attracted them to Iten.

They compete in the 5,000m, 10,000m and road races, and their common dream is to be the best and follow in the footsteps of former world champions, Hellen Obiri and Vivian Cheruiyot.

Identical twins

Purity Gitonga (left) and her twin-sister Caroline Gitonga during a training session at Kipchoge Keino Stadium in Eldoret town on May 0, 2024.

Photo credit: Jared Nyataya | Nation Media Group

Do they compete together in the same race at times? 


Last year, Purity bagged victory at the Udine Half Marathon in Italy, timing 68 minutes and 58 seconds and finishing ahead of Caroline who clocked 70:13.

“It’s a nice feeling when you are competing with your sister, and this happened last year where we kept pushing the pace until Purity decided to break from me because she was a little bit stronger than me,” says Caroline.

Born in Kiberichia, Meru County, they schooled at Murinya Primary School before joining Murinya High School from where they both graduated in 2014 and went into serious training.

Identical twins

Caroline Gitonga (left) and her twin-sister Purity Gitonga during a training session at Kipchoge Keino Stadium in Eldoret town, Uasin Gishu County on May 8, 2024.

Photo credit: Jared Nyataya | Nation Media Group

Their interest in athletics started while they were in high school, and they would later join the Run2gether Athletics Camp.

“We changed our training venue from Naivasha because we wanted a high altitude area, and it was a challenge in the first place.

“But we got used to it and we are enjoying our training so far,” explains Caroline, a mother of one.

Purity, who used to run in mountain races, believes training together has improved their performance.

“When we get on to the start line, we always encourage one another and I’m always happy when we finish the race at the podium. 

“We have team work and this has really kept us going,” says Purity.

Purity admits that she felt lonely when Caroline went for on a maternity break but she kept training hard before her sister rejoined her.

Identical twins

Twin sisters Caroline Gitonga (left) and Purity Gitonga on May 8, 2024.

Photo credit: Jared Nyataya | Nation Media Group

“I now understand why athletes love Iten and together with my sister, we joined the system and it has really favoured our programme. Our target is to improve each season and be like 5,000m world champions Hellen Obiri and Vivian Cheruiyot,” says Purity.

She adds that while in school, they used to see Cheruiyot competing, and that inspired them to train hard.

They have met their mentor on several occasions and she has motivated them to continue working hard.

“Our mother has also been pushing us to train hard and at times she forgets that we are off-season and wakes us up very early in the morning asking us to go for training. 

“That’s our mother for us, but we are glad because our parents have been so supportive,” she adds, also acknowledging their father, Julius Gitonga, for the support.  

Their mother, Lucy Nguta, who used to compete in the 400m hurdles, has been pushing them to do better.

She would take them to local races and make sure they register and compete as one way of improving on their performance.

While Purity loves eating chicken and chapati, Caroline on the other hand loves githeri.

Alice Owiti and Maureen Owiti (hockey)

Alice Owiti and Maureen Owiti are 24-years-old and play for Kisumu-based Lakers Hockey Club.

Their striking resemblance has been a challenge to their opponents in the sport.

Alice observes that playing with her twin sister is easy, saying that it took time for their colleagues to understand them as some would think she prefers passing the ball to her sister than other team players.

"I’m a good dribbler, and in hockey, you have to look down at the ball while dribbling before looking up and passing the ball to your teammate.

“But when playing with Maureen, I don't even have look up, because I normally know exactly where she would be. 

Identical twins

Hockey-playing twin sisters Maureen Owiti (left) and Alice Owiti at Jaramogi Oginga Odinga Sports Complex, Kisumu on May 18, 2024. 

Photo credit: Alex Odhiambo | Nation Media Group

“She knows my movements and hence, she always creates the best option for me. I mean, who wouldn't know how their twin thinks?" says Alice with a big smile.

Interestingly, the two have been separated by their professional environment. Alice is a French teacher at the Tenwek Boys High School in Bomet County while Maureen is a volunteer social worker in Vihiga County.

Despite the distance, they meet most of the weekends in Kisumu for their training sessions. This has seen their bond remaining intact. 

Alice, who also plays for the national hockey team, narrates how she changed from playing football to hockey and later persuaded her twin sister to join the sport when she joined Form One.

Both went to Sinyolo High School in Nyanza, but Maureen was one year behind. She joined Form One, they both started playing hockey.

“I decided to wait for my sister while in Form Four so that we could seat for the final exams together because we had been separated for a long period. I just had to sacrifice and wait.

"We later joined Masinde Muliro University of Science and Technology (MMUST) in Kakamega County where we went on playing hockey for our institution,” says Alice, who is a midfielder.

Alice joined the national team in 2019. She made her debut at the African Games in South Africa and has represented Kenya to date.

In 2017, she was named Most Valuable Player, both nationally and in the East Africa School Games in Rwanda.

She started her teaching career at St Allois Ajola High School in Kisumu County before joining Busy Brains High School in Kakamega County and later Tenwek High School.

This year, she has taken up hockey coaching at Tenwek, steering her school to the regional level competition.

Identical twins

Twin sisters Maureen Owiti (left) and Alice Owiti during a training session at Jaramogi Oginga Odinga Sports Complex, Kisumu on May 18, 2024.

Photo credit: Alex Odhiambo | Nation Media Group

Alice, whose other hobby is watching movies, believes that one day she will play at the Olympic Games.

On her part, Maureen enrolled for a diploma course in social work before working her way through an online undergraduate programme.

But she has elected to wait for Alice so they could graduate together.

“We shared some things but we were separated at an early stage, only to be reunited through sport. They always say sports is a unifying factor, and true to that, we have been meeting almost every weekend to play,” says Maureen, a community mobilizer.  

She admits that her sister has always held her hand and is the reason she took up the sport.

Identical twins

Hockey-playing twin sisters Maureen Owiti (left) and Alice Owiti pose for a photo at Jaramogi Oginga Odinga Sports Complex, Kisumu on May 18, 2024. 

Photo credit: Alex Odhiambo | Nation Media Group

“My sister and I are midfielders – though I also play in defence - and this really confuses players from the other teams we meet… we keep encouraging each other because travelling for training, especially for my sister who is far away, isn't an easy thing,” she says.

Maureen attributes her success to Alice whom she describes as her role model.

Through hockey, she has travelled to France, Rwanda, England, Uganda, Egypt, Ghana and South Africa.

She dreams of one day becoming a coach after she retires from active play.

Identical twins

Twin sisters Maureen Owiti (left) and Alice Owiti.

Photo credit: Alex Odhiambo | Nation Media Group

The pair are full of praise for their junior coach, Austine Tuju, who identified them while in high school and later recruited them to the Kisumu club and so far they have been doing well.

“They used to play for our club during the holidays and upon completing school, we continued engaging them to play in the national league and that is where they were spotted to join the national team,” says Tuju.

The coach says the sisters stand out for their energy.

“In the club, I play Maureen in the defense while Alice can play in the midfield and a striker, because she has that ability.

“They have shown good progress and I believe they would go far. Being twins, when they joined the club, it was hard to differentiate them but now I can easily know who is who,” adds the coach.

The club contributed seven players to Kenya’s national team to the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham in 2022, five to the International Hockey Federation’s World Hockey Fives qualifiers and six to this year’s African Games in Accra.

Do you know of any other set of twins who are playing in any sport in Kenya? You can contact us through: [email protected]