Why nurturing young talent is top on Janeth Jepkosgei’s agenda

Why nurturing young talent is top on Janeth Jepkosgei’s agenda

Kabirirsang village near Kapsabet town in Nandi County is the birthplace of several famous Kenyan runners.

Former world 800m record holder Wilson Kipketer as well as the 2008 Olympics 800m champion Wilfred Bungei hail from the village.

Legendary athletes Kipchoge Keino and Henry Rono, who recently returned from USA after many years, also call the area home.

Another former world 800m champion Janeth Jepkosgei who also was born in the area is, however, not contented by the mere fact that the region produced great runners.

The runner, fondly known as Eldoret Express, says without continuity, the region might be forgotten and this the reason she is on a quest to nurture upcoming talent through her Kapchemoiywo Athletics Training Camp.

In a glittering career spanning over a decade, the 2006 Commonwealth Games champion certainly has no regret on the track, that is why giving back to society is a calling she doesn’t want to abandon.

The 2008 Olympic Games silver medalist says her biggest focus in the camp that was started in late 2015 is junior athletes and nurturing them rise through the ranks.

Almost five years on, the camp has taken in nearly 100 junior athletes mostly from primary and secondary schools with majority coming from the region, though some come from other counties.

” Starting this camp is one of the things that I look back to with a lot of pride. In an area where the demand is quite high, I am happy to be doing something that is, in a way, giving back to society, ” said the runner who in 2002 won gold at the World Junior Championships in Kingston, Jamaica.

“When you look around, there are so many athletes with huge potential but don’t have the goodwill or support system to excel. Majority are coming from extremely poor backgrounds. Once they show up, you can’t turn them away, you simply have to find a a way of accommodating them. Basically that was the idea behind the camp which I am happy to announce has made tremendous strides,” added the 2017 world champion.

For a relatively young camp, more milestones were reached late last year when camp was selected by Athletics Kenya  as one of its 14 countrywide camps set up World Under-20 Championships training bases .

However, the junior championships have since been postponed from July 7-12 this year due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Consequently, the camp just like all the other training camps in the country has had to be closed as one of the Kenyan government’s directive aimed at containment of the disease.

“Most of the athletes here were hopeful of making to team Kenya for the junior Championships. Having risen myself through the ranks, I know how important such events are to upcoming athletes. While the championships might have been postponed, I know the dreams of the many young athletes are still intact,” added the runner who last represented Kenya at the 2015 world championships.

Jepkosgei believes better nurturing, mentorship, training and coaching can get Kenya back to the world map especially at a time the country is struggling in the two-lap race in both genders.

“Mostly over the years, one can see the direct linkage from Juniors to seniors, the career progression was there for everyone to see. However, presently there is a disconnect, most athletes are doing what I can equate to trial and error. The number of athletes specializing in 800m are not many,” she added.

Besides being actively involved in the running of her camp, the former world champion is keen on becoming a full time coach with her orientation with 2013 world champion Eunice Sum going well so far.

“While my biggest priority is the young athletes, I have also been working with Sum and Jonathan Kitilit just to name a few. I think soon I will go to full time into coaching because I love this sport which had made me who I am,” she added.

For now, Jepkosgei has one appeal to athletes and Kenyans at large: “Adhere to the government directive on social distancing and ensuring hygiene so that the pandemic can be contained soon enough.”