Purity Chepkirui: Teen excelling on the track and in class

Purity Chepkirui

Purity Chepkirui (left), the Africa Senior Championships 1,500m Silver Medalist, busy in class at Tiloa Mixed Secondary School in Kuresoi, Nakuru County on June 16, 2022.

Photo credit: Jared Nyataya | Nation Media Group

What you need to know:

  • Chepkirui has inspired other students to follow in her footsteps among them Mercy Chepkemoi (5,000m) and Judy Kemunto (800m) among other upcoming athletes.
  • She also thanked her area Member of Parliament Moses Cheboi for the support.

During the Africa Senior Athletics Championships held early this month in Mauritius, Kenya topped the standings with 23 medals;10 gold, five silver and eight bronze.

Among the medalists was World Under-20 1,500m champion Purity Chepkirui,19, who won silver in her specialty, flooring her more experienced opponents.

Well, it turns out that the Form Two student at Tiloa Secondary School is not excelling on the track alone.

At just 19 years, Purity is already the bread winner of her family. She pays her own school fees and those of her siblings, and if you thought it ends at just taking care of other bills, then you are mistaken.

She has also bought land for her single mother, who is a squatter after been evicted from the Mau Forest, and is planning on building her a house.

Nation Sport set off to Tiloa village in Kuresoi North, Nakuru County for an interview with the world beater.

Purity Chepkirui

Purity Chepkirui shows the gold medal she won during the Memorial Agnes Tirop Cross Country junior 6km race at her home in  Kuresoi North, Nakuru County  on June 16, 2022.


Photo credit: Jared Nyataya | Nation Media Group

We arrive at Tiloa Secondary School where classes are ongoing and are welcomed by the school principal, Mr. Pius Kiongo.

As we explain our mission, the principal leads us to his office which has been partitioned and with another room used as staff-room, while another one is used by the school secretary.

The school is now in the limelight thanks to the good performance from the junior athlete, who will take part in the national under-20 trials set for Friday and Saturday at Nyayo National Stadium.

Last weekend, she took part in the World Athletics and Commonwealth Games trials, finishing third, but the selectors opted not to select her in the final team as they want her to defend her crown at the World Under-20 Championships in Cali, Colombia from August 1-6.

The World Athletics Championships will run from July 15 to 24 in Oregon, United States followed by the Commonwealth Games on July 28 to August 8 in Birmingham, England.

We are later joined by coach Michael Siele, who is also the headmaster of Tiloa Primary School, which is just opposite the high section.

Chepkirui and her teammates are boarding in the primary section due to their training programme.

Purity Chepkirui

Purity Chepkirui with her siblings and mother Christine Chebochok at their home in Tiloa village on June 16, 2022.

Photo credit: Jared Nyataya | Nation Media Group

Fresh from winning silver medal during the Africa Senior Championships in Mauritius, Chepkirui switches her attention back to her studies, this time she has to conquer the Physics lesson.

The Mauritius event was her first international outing and she was excited with her performance.

Compatriot Winny Chebet won the race after clocking 4:16.10 ahead of Chepkirui who timed 4:16.28, while Ethiopia’s Ayal Dagnachew settled for the bronze medal in 4:16.45.

“Finishing second behind Chebet made me feel that I’m already a senior athlete and it has given me more reason to work harder.

“It was my first time to board a plane and it was exciting, though I had a lot of fear when the aircraft was taking off but I later enjoyed it,” said Chepkirui, who is also the Memorial Agnes Tirop Cross Country junior 6km champion.

However, last year's gold triumph in the World Under-20 Championships at Kasarani remains her finest moment.

Purity Chepkirui

Purity Chepkirui trains at Tiloa Primary School’s playground on June 16, 2022.
 

Photo credit: Jared Nyataya | Nation Media Group

Chepkirui said that the 1500m final was tense because she was competing against Ethiopia’s Diriba Welteji, who was fastest in the field and pre-race favourite.

“When we went for the one-month camp at Kasarani, my coach used to give me tips and he even warned me about the Ethiopians and asked me to sprint in the last lap because our rivals are good in the sprint finish.

I managed to surge forward and sprinted all the way to the finish line. I’m happy it worked for me,” said Chepkirui.

Back in the village, whole community mounted a large screen at the primary school section and it was joy and dance when their daughter emerged the winner.

Mr. Kiongo described Chepkirui as a hard working girl, who is always top ten in class and a good example to the other students.

She looks up to Double Olympics 1500m champion Faith Kipyegon who comes from Keringet in Kuresoi South near her home.

“Kipyegon has always been my role model and I admire her running style and  hope to follow in her footsteps," added Chepkirui.

Chepkirui got interested in athletics in 2018 while in standard six after the headmaster Mr. Siele introduced it alongside handball, which the school excelled in.

In 2020, she was in the team for the Africa Cross Country Championships, but didn't get the chance to compete after the event that was to be held in Lome, Togo was cancelled due to Covid-19.

In 2021, she again managed to get a slot in the Africa Cross Country Championships junior team, but again the event was cancelled.

Her success has come with a lot of challenges, but that does not deter her from doing better as she focuses on excelling on both fronts.

“Sometimes, I reduce my training sessions and join my fellow students to go and fetch water which is almost 1.5km away. My appeal is for those concerned to help us get clean water. I know the schools here will benefit and also the village will be able to access clean water,” she added.

Her mother, Christine Chebochok is glad that her daughter is rising steadily and prays for her to do well in the sport.

“Chepkirui has changed my life because she has been paying school fees for her siblings since she started running. She also bought me land and the next project is to build a house where we can live because we are squatters and we are living in a good Samaritan’s house,” said her mother.

Chepkirui has inspired other students to follow in her footsteps among them Mercy Chepkemoi (5,000m) and Judy Kemunto (800m) among other upcoming athletes.

She also thanked her area Member of Parliament Moses Cheboi for the support.

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