Nairobi — Kericho-born Winnie Chepngetich could barely hide her joy after she was selected to join Team Kenya to next month's World Athletics Under 20 Championship in Cali, Colombia.
The junior athlete marked 6.20m at the national trials to meet the qualifying mark for long jump and secure a ticket to the biennial championship, set for August 2-6.
Chepngetich described the win as a fresh start after previous struggles in her career, which dented her confidence.
"I am so happy to have won even though I had not expected it. I was close to giving up on my career as a long jumper and was thinking of shifting focus to triple jump. However, those around me kept encouraging me to keep trying. This win has given me renewed hope that I can go far," Chepngetich said.
She further explained her struggles on the field, which even prompted her to focus on sprints.
"I used to specialize in the sprints, specifically, the 200m and 400m. However, my coach kept insisting that long jump is my calling and taught me how to improve my technique. Even before the trials, we had sat together and came up with a strategy," Chepngetich, who admires another Kenyan long jumper, Gloria Mulei, said.
As the sole field event athlete in the team of 29 to Cali, Chepngetich has made history as the first to qualify to represent the country in long jump at the Under 20 level.
She was part of a group of sprinters who attended a month-long training camp in Miramas, France in April.
Chepngetich credited the camp for the vast improvement witnessed in her game.
"It really helped me and instilled a lot of confidence in me. Training under such modern conditions was an eye-opener and taught me new skills to incorporate in my game. I would not have been able to qualify for Cali had it not been for the camp. While there, I set a personal best of 5.72m and my coach told me that I could do better than that," she said.
Chepngetich now plans to finesse her technique in addition to rectifying her weak areas.