7 August 2008

Kenya: 800 Metres Sensation Pamela Jelimo Speaks of Possible World Record

Beijing — The lure of Kenya's first women's Olympic gold medal is in itself enough motivation; 800 metres sensation Pamela Jelimo on Thursday spoke about a possible world record in the two-lap race that promises to be among the highlight athletics events here from next week.

The 18-year-old prodigy continues to be the talking point here and on Thursday, she told the Daily Nation that among the items securely packed in her luggage was a good amount of mursik, the traditional sour milk that has been known to, albeit largely symbolically, spur Kenyan runners on to great things.

She believes the inspiration she will get from a few daily sips of this ceremonial drink will translate into a memorable burst of speed that could see her set one of the first, if not the first, world record on the newly-laid track at the Beijing National Olympic Stadium.

The 800m world record is one of the oldest on the track and stands at one minute, 53.28 seconds, set by one Jarmila Kratochvilova of the Czech Republic way back in July 1983 in Munich.

With just a couple of races of top flight running recorded in her already stellar career, no one in his or her right senses will discount the possibility of a serious attempt at Kratochvilova's mark by Jelimo.

This is especially taking into consideration the Kenyan's brilliant pace and front-running technique that has placed her on the pedestal of a huge IAAF Golden League jackpot pay day.

In the IAAF series, any athlete who wins all six races at selected meetings of the IAAF Golden League circuit earns $1 million (Sh7 million). If more than one athlete completes the clean sweep, then all the successful athletes will share the loot.

With just two meetings in this year's series still to go in Brussels and Zurich, only two athletes remain in the race for a share of this year's jackpot - Jelimo and Croatian invincible high jumper Blanca Vlasic, meaning that Jelimo is assured of at least Sh35 million at the end of the season, unless Vlasic falters or is injured to hand the Kapsabet girl a further Sh35 million windfall.

The Weltklasse Zurich meet will be held on August 28, right after the Olympics, while the Memorial van Damme meet in Brussels holds on September 5 to end the annual series.

Looking at her times at the first four races, Jelimo has been getting stronger and more consistent. In Berlin, she ran an African record 1:54.99 before slowing a little bit to 1:55.69 in Oslo and clocking another 1:55 (69) in Rome.

It was at the Stade de France in St Denis, on the outskirts of Paris, on the night of July 18, 2008, that she announced her arrival on the Olympic stage with a brilliant 1:54.97, an improvement on her African mark.

"The weather here is great, its warm and it provides a good chance for a good performance," Jelimo said outside the Olympic Village before her evening training session. "If the field is good and the pace right, I cannot rule out a world record.

"The warm weather helps great performances because the muscles do not contract like they do in the cold. The training we did in Nairobi itself was good enough and we will not let the country down."

She is wary of the fact that her local and international rival, world champion Janeth Jepkosgei, is also in the mix alongside multiple champion Maria de Lourdes Mutola of Mozambique.

She is also happy that her would-be Russian challenger Yelena Soboleva was busted for doping.

But she calmly deflected questions about her opponents and took the diplomatic route on Thursday.

"I respect Mutola very much as I have run with her a lot of times while Janeth is my very good friend with whom we have trained as a team and planned well to bring glory to Kenya - on the day, it is God's mercies that will provide the winner.

"About the Russians, it is not good to use drugs to gain unfair advantage," she said.

What about the subject of mursik?

"I carried just enough to keep me going throughout the games. This milk is rich in calcium and I take it sometimes three times a day," she added.

With the stringent airport security checks preventing passengers from carrying strange liquids, it's hard to confirm whether or not Jelimo indeed carried her fermented milk all the way from Kapsabet.

However, what matters is her focus and current state of mind that could well lead to a world record when the 800m final is run Monday, August 18 at 9.39 pm (4.39 pm Kenyan time).

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