Bitter-sweet feeling as Jelimo receives Olympic bronze 10 years later

Pamela Jelimo

Pamela Jelimo (right) receives her bronze medal from Kipchoge Keino at the National Museum of Kenya on December 7, 2022.

Photo credit: Chris Omollo | Nation Media Group

What you need to know:

  • Namwamba commended Jelimo, Obiri and Jepkosgei for their exploits as he reiterated his pledge to make Kenya inhabitable for dopers and their agents.
  • “I want to thank them for showing that there is honour in losing that cheating hence I feel how painful it can be to wait for that long,” said Namwamba. “That is why our top priority and our new mantra as government and Athletics Kenya is absolute zero tolerance to doping.”

She held back the adrenaline rush amidst mixed emotions as she received the precious bronze medal from legendary runner Kipchoge Keino.

Even though the set up was at the iconic Kenya National Museum, the history-making Pamela Jelimo’s nostalgic memories took her back to the Olympic Stadium 10 years ago during the women’s 800m final of the London Olympic Games.

“I am lost for words...can’t hold back the adrenaline rush because it feels like I am at the 2012 London Olympics arena receiving this bronze medal,” said Jelimo upon donning the medal from Kipchoge, the 1968 Mexico Olympics 1,500m and 1972 Munich Olympics 3,0000m steeplechase champion.

Jelimo, the first Kenyan woman to win an Olympic gold medal with her exploits in 800m at the 2008 Beijing Summers Games, finished fourth in one minute and 57.59 second at the London Olympics.

However, Jelimo’s position was scaled to bronze medal after race winner Mariya Savinova from Russia, was stripped of the gold medal for doping. Savinova clocked 1:56.19.

South Africa’s Caster Semenya and another Russian Ekaterina Poistogova, who had settled for silver and bronze, scaled to gold and silver with their times of 1:57.23 and 1:57.53 respectively.

Kenya’s 2007 World 800m champion Janeth Jepkosgei, who had settled eighth in the race in 2:00.19 and Hellen Obiri, who came eighth in women’s 1,500m at the same Olympics, also receive their certificates.

Wednesday's ceremony was attended by the Cabinet Secretary for Sports, Ababu Namwamba, National Olympic Committee of Kenya (NOC-K) executive led by its president, Paul Tergat, and International Olympic Committee (IOC) Solidarity deputy director, Pamela Vipond.

“If you ask me, it feels like a bitter-sweet pill for me,” explained Jelimo during the ceremony that acted as a perfect birthday gift, having celebrated her 32nd birthday on Monday.

“It feels sweet because it’s a great day that I finally get to receive my medal after a decade.”

Jelimo,  the 2008 Africa 800m and 2012 World Indoor 800m champion, said that it feels bitter because that medal then could have changed many things for me in terms of work promotions or better deals.

“You see, many of my colleagues who won medals at the Olympics were given promotions at the work stations. I am a cop and who knows what could have happened then,” said Jelimo, adding that after winning gold in 2008 Beijing, she never stopped training.

“Surely, training for four years and then getting nothing at the 2012 London Olympics because of some cheats feels bad. There is still that bitterness in me.

“My children asked me if I still run after they were going to receive a medal because I have nothing major to show off but all the same I am pleading with athletes to run clean,” said Jelimo. “Look at this honour I have received today albeit late.”

Nevertheless, Jelimo said despite hanging her spikes, having competed last in 2014, said she is happy working as an instructor at the National Police Service College.

“People what I have been up to all these years but I can tell them I am pretty available, mentoring young athletes and as a coach,” said Jelimo, adding that athletics will thrive locally if people embrace clean running.   

Jelimo advised athletes to avoid shortcuts by training well and eat healthy. “Actually 10 years is a long period but it tells you that patience and perseverance pays,” said Jelimo.

“It feels good because justice has prevailed albeit late. It’s a lesson to all athletes that running clean is the real deal and the best thing,” said Obiri, adding that Kenya has enormous talent and potential.

Namwamba commended Jelimo, Obiri and Jepkosgei for their exploits as he reiterated his pledge to make Kenya inhabitable for dopers and their agents.

“I want to thank them for showing that there is honour in losing that cheating hence I feel how painful it can be to wait for that long,” said Namwamba. “That is why our top priority and our new mantra as government and Athletics Kenya is absolute zero tolerance to doping.”

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