Team Kenya's 1,500 metres athlete Purity Chepkirui relaxes at the Sports View Hotel, Kasarani, after a training session on August 9, 2023 ahead of the World Athletics Championships to be held in Budapest. The 20-year-old is the latest inclusion in Team Kenya for the world event.

| Chris Omollo | Nation Media Group

Purity Chepkirui dives into deep end at Budapest Worlds

What you need to know:

  • Athletics Kenya Chief Administrative Officer Susan Kamau Wednesday night said the federation will issue a statement on Chebet “in due course.”

Kenya’s 2021 World Under-20 Championships’ 1,500 metres gold medalist Purity Chepkirui is quite realistic with her expectations ahead of the World Athletics Championships scheduled for August 19 to 27 in Budapest, Hungary.

The 20-year-old is the latest inclusion in Team Kenya for the world event, having replaced World Cross Country Championships mixed relay champion Brenda Chebet, who has been axed from the team under unclear circumstances.

Athletics Kenya Chief Administrative Officer Susan Kamau Wednesday night said the federation will issue a statement on Chebet “in due course.”

Lady luck shone on Chepkirui in school when her coach, Michael Siele, delivered the news that she was needed at Team Kenya’s camp on Sunday.

“It shocked me at first why I was needed back in Nairobi after I finished fourth during the trials to miss out (of qualification),” said the form three student at school at Tiloa Girls Secondary School, Molo, Nakuru County.

“I had a bad cold that weakened my body during the trials.”

Chepkirui had to recollect herself that she was about to not only about to join her role model, the Olympic champion and double world record holder Faith Kipyegon and the rest of the 1,500m gang, but also make her maiden senior World Championships.

“I had already turned my focus to next year’s African Games, Africa Senior Championships and the Paris Olympic Games, but God works in mysterious ways. I am delighted to be going to Budapest,” said the 2022 world 1,500m bronze medallist.

“I am fast adjusting to training, and most of all, bonding with the rest,” said Chepkirui, who will team up with Kipyegon, who is the 1,500m and 5,000m world record holder, Edinah Jebitok and Nelly Chepchirchir.

Chepkirui said that she will be out in search of experience and exposure against some of the world's best metric milers including Kipyegon, Sifan Hassan from the Netherlands and Ethiopia’s Gudaf Tsegay.

“I expect to perform well and my target is to reach the final. This will be my first time at such a stage and it will be tough running against Kipyegon, Sifan and Gudaf,” said Chepkirui, adding that championships have always produced upsets.

Potential in athletics

“You never know what God has planned for me if I am to reach the final,” explained Chepkirui, who was born on Valentine’s Day of 2003 in Kuresoi North, Molo, Nakuru County.

Chepkirui was thrown into the world of athletics when her current coach started athletics at Tiloa Primary School after ditching handball in 2018.

“He saw there was potential in athletics with several of us running hence the switch,” said Chepkirui.

She reached the regional level in 2018 and nationals in 2019 during the primary school championships.

"Finishing 25th during the Ndalat Gaa Cross Country Championships in 2019 was like baptism by fire but it’s a race that shaped who I am today,” said Chepkirui.

Chepkirui started the year 2021 well, winning the national trials for the World Athletics Under-20 Championships at the Moi International Sports Centre, Kasarani.

The Golazo Sports management athlete would end Kenya’s nine-year wait for the women’s 1,500m title after winning the supremacy battle between Kenya and Ethiopia.

Chepkirui and compatriot Winnie Jemutai put Diribe Welteji and Jiwot Mehari to the sword in the women’s final.

Chepkirui led all the way, hitting the bell at 3:15.41 before holding off Welteji to win in 4:16.07 and end Ethiopia’s dominance.

Kipyegon had been the last Kenyan to win the title in 2012 Barcelona.

“That is when it dawned on me that I can not only run well but also win medals for felt great,” said Chepkirui.

Come last year, Chepkirui, who won the national trials, failed to defend her title in Cali, Colombia, settling for bronze. “I was really battling a series of injuries and I couldn’t push the well,” said Chepkirui, who still won her maiden national 1,500m title last year.

Her ultimate dream is to equal or surpass Kipyegon’s achievements in 1,500m by winning both the world and Olympic title besides breaking the world record over the distance.

“I also plan to scale to distance races just like Kipyegon but it’s all about hard work, discipline and respect,” said Chepkirui.

Kipyegon has achieved three world records since June and two of those marks, in the women’s 1,500m and 5,000m, are now officially in the record books. Her women’s mile record set in Monaco on July 21, is pending ratification.

The first of Kipyegon’s world records was set at the Golden Gala, a Diamond League meeting, in Florence on June 2. On that occasion, the two-time world and Olympic champion ran 3:49.11 to break the women’s world 1,500m record of 3:50.07 that had been set by Ethiopia’s Genzebe Dibaba in Monaco on July 17, 2015.

Just one week later she raced at the Paris Diamond League, on June 9 and stepped up to the 5, 000m. While her original aim might not have been the world record of 14:06.62 set by Ethiopia’s Letesenbet Gidey in Valencia on 7 October 2020, Kipyegon still broke it, running 14:05.20 in just her third ever race at the distance.