14 AUG 2013 Feature Moscow, Russia

The wait is finally over for Kenyan steeplechaser Chemos

Milcah Chemos in the womens 3000m SC at the IAAF World Championships Moscow 2013 (Getty Images)Milcah Chemos in the womens 3000m SC at the IAAF World Championships Moscow 2013 (Getty Images) © Copyright

Milcah Chemos finally delivered on her promise to win an IAAF World Championships 3000m Steeplechase title, albeit at the third attempt after winning back-to-back bronze medals in Berlin 2009 and Daegu 2011.

The 27-year-old Kenyan did it in great style by clocking a 2103 world-leading time of 9:11.65 to beat her compatriot, friend and training partner Lydia Chepkurui in a very quick race.

The pàir share the same coach, former middle-distance runner Alex Sang, who is the husband of Chemos. They later said that they had planned together to run a fast race.

”I wanted to follow a fast pace at the front. We were planning a fast race, that’s what we did and our strategy paid off. We train together and do the same training. This was our day," said Chemos.

Chemos and Sang have a seven-year-old daughter, Lavine Chemutai.

“My daughter called me before the race and told me: ‘Mom, you have to bring home the gold. You can’t return home without the gold.’ I want to dedicate the gold to my daughter," said Chemos, smiling.

The smile turned into sadness when she said that her 95-year-old grandmother recently died. “I want to also dedicate the World title to my grand-mother who died on the Saturday before the championships”. 

Chemos began running at Kiganjo College when she met her future husband. “Alex kept on looking at me, saying: “You have the body of a runner, why don’t you try it?”

Police pressure

She really started running seriously as a Kenyan police recruit in 2005. “They came round the college asking for someone interested in running and I decided to give it a try first as a joke, but then I noticed I could beat the others and that’s when I saw that I had a future in running. I began training seriously in 2008, urged on by my husband.”

She initially specialised as an 800m runner and finished seventh at the Kenyan trials for the 2008 Olympic Games. “I decided to switch to the Steeplechase in April 2009 after realising that I could not run good times to be competitive in the 800 and 1500 metres,” recalled Chemos.

Four months after tackling the barriers for the first time, Chemos impressed to win the bronze medal at the 2009 World Championships in what was then her personal best of 9:08.57. Two years later she entered the World Championships in Daegu as the favourite after winning all the IAAF Diamond League races she contested before her trip to Korea but she had to settle with another bronze medal.

She started the 2012 season on a high note by clocking an African record of 9:07.14 at the Diamond League meeting in Oslo, but she carried an injury and failed reach the podium at the London 2012 Olympic Games.

London dismay turns to Moscow joy

“I was injured in London. This win makes up for the London disappointment. We really prepared for the World Championships and executed the race. We achieved the Kenyan double and we are so happy. Kenya is happy and proud for us.

“Ever since I started the Steeplechase in 2009, I knew that one day I was going to become World champion. I was waiting, waiting. This year was about focusing on the World Championships. Now that Kenyan ladies have done our best, we hope that our men will follow suit."

Celebrations with her husband and her daughter are postponed until next month, after the Diamond League final in Brussels on 6 September where Chemos will clinch the Diamond Race if she wins and she has already won three Diamond League meetings in Rome, Birmingham and Monaco this year.

In the last meeting before Moscow, Chemos beat Chepkurui in her previous seasonal best of 9:14.17 in a preview of what was going to happen three weeks later in Moscow.

“The win in the Diamond Race is not going to be like the World Championships but it is a goal is also to win the Diamond Race," concluded Chemos.

Diego Sampaolo for the IAAF