Chelimo reaps rewards for her gutsy move

Rose Chelimo, the world champion in marathon, speaks to the media in Bengaluru on Friday. DH Photo/ S K Dinesh

Four years ago, Rose Chelimo had a decision to make --  continue to represent Kenya and hope that she makes the team for the big events through that country's selection process or head in a different direction and see her dreams fulfilled.

The 29-year-old decided to move her allegiance to Bahrain to fuel her ambitions and she hasn't looked back since.

Chelimo won the marathon gold medal in the 2017 World Championships and followed it up with an Asian Games gold a year later. Now, in preparation to retain her World Championship crown later this year, the long distance runner couldn't be happier with her decision.

"I'm very happy to race for Bahrain. I did it (changed her allegiance) back in 2015. I knew somebody who was in contact with them. When they asked for me I accepted to go there," said Chelimo, who will be competing in the TCS World 10K Run here on Friday. "I want to retire as a Bahrain athlete," she added.

The highly competitive Kenyan environment and the tough selection processes also influenced her decision. "In Kenya, there are so many good athletes, who have run good times, that it is very hard to get selected there. There are so many things they follow to get athletes to represent their country.

"When they were selecting team, we were not recognised. So I had to look for another team. I had run previously for them, but they were not selecting me," she said.

Blessed with a never-ending supply of world-class long-distance runners and with a selection process often termed less than transparent, Chelimo believes her call was the right one.

"If I was staying in Kenya, I might not have made the team and wouldn't be a world champion," she stressed.

Chelimo continues to stay and train in Kenya and visits her adopted country only on occasions. Her change in nationality is not even a talking point among the other athletes she trains with, she reveals. "When we are together, they are happy about it," she says before switching to the World Championships.

"God willing, I hope to defend the title. I think I have gone a step further after the win, I've also helped my family. I was happy to win Asian Games but conditions there were too hot. I've heard Doha is hot too," she remarked.

On Sunday, she will be among the favourites to challenge for the elite women's crown alongside the course record holder Agnes Tirop.

Among the men, Kenyan Geoffrey Koech and Paul Tanui will be among the main contenders. Tanui, who is more focused on track than road competitions, believes he still has much to achieve on the track before switching focus completely to the road.

"If a child is born today he has to take it step by step. That's how I have to mature for road running. I haven't gotten a gold yet and the day I get it, I will think about the road. It is my focus to run in Doha," said the 10,000m bronze medalist in the 2017 World Championships in London.

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