Updated 25 March 2008
Doris Chepkwemoi CHANGEYWO, Kenya (5000m, 10,000m, cross country)
Born 12 December 1984, Chebyuk village, Mt Elgon
Height: 160cm (5' 3"); Weight: 43kgs
Manager: Ricky Simms
One of the surprise inclusions in the Kenya squad for the 2008 World Cross Country Championships in Edinburgh, 23-year-old Doris Changeywo will be representing her country at the event for the first time - the realisation of a long-held dream of donning the famed red, black and green strip. The army woman, whose name (Changeywo) means one born at night, finally made the team after falling short since her first attempt to break into the squad in 2005.
The third-born in a family of 10, Changeywo was born in Chebyuk Village and attended Chebyuk Primary School from 1991 to 1998. She then joined Kapkateny High School (1999-2002) and it was here that she started her athletics career, reaching National Secondary Schools Cross Country finals in 1999 but registering a DNF.
The following year, in 2000, she finished eighth at the National Schools cross-country meet and repeated the feat in 2001. Changeywo did not run at all in 2002 as she concentrated on her final year of her secondary school and exams. Once done with school, she spent 2003 at home. "I thought I was now too old to run and stayed at home,” she said.
But in 2004, her brother came to her rescue. "He used to pass through Iten and heard about Lornah Kiplagat's High Performance Training Camp and encouraged me to travel to Iten," she said. Changeywo joined the camp shortly afterwards.
"Joining the camp was exceptional,” Changeywo said. “It gave me hope and made me realise what I could achieve through athletics. Lornah was always there, talking with us and encouraging us, and I was able to chart my way in athletics." Kiplagat is the reigning women’s World Cross Country champion, a former Kenyan who became a Dutch citizen in 2003. The camp, exclusively for women, is designed to give young athletes a chance.
Changeywo made tremendous improvement and, only months later, she finished second at the North Rift Championships, in Eldoret, clocking 33:59.7. At the National Championships she came sixth with a 30 seconds improvement on her PB (33:29.0). Next up was the Olympic trials, on June 25, when Changeywo improved to fifth position clocking 32:19.5 but missed out on a place in the Athens-bound squad.
Changeywo started 2005 with a third-place finish in the women's long race at a National Cross Country series meet in Eldoret in January. She was then selected in Kenya's team to East Africa Regional Cross Country Championships, in Nairobi, in February.
Running in the senior women's 8km race, Changeywo easily won in 28:04, leading her team to the regional crown. She then placed seventh at the National Cross Country Championships and was selected as a reserve for the World Cross Country Championships in St-Etienne/St-Galmier, France. When Susan Chepkemei was dropped, for failing to report to the camp on time, she was widely expected to step in, having trained with the team in Kigari in the build up to the championships.
But Changeywo suffered heartache when the national coaches preferred 2002 World 4km bronze medallist, Isabella Ochichi as they named the final squad. Ochichi had finished 17th at the trials and there was outrage in the local papers over her exclusion.
Endeavouring to put the disappointment behind her, Changeywo clinched third place in a 10km race in Glasgow in May 15 (32:05). Come the summer season, Changeywo made yet another attempt to make the team for a major championship. At the national athletics trials in June she placed sixth at 10,000m (33:10.2), thus missing out on the World Championships in Helsinki.
Changeywo started 2006 in the best way possible, winning the inaugural Shoe 4 Africa race in Iten in January. Competing on the roads over 10km, the then 21-year-old timed 35:45 to beat a field of 400 athletes who braved the windy conditions.
All primed for the national trials, Changeywo had to change her plans after she was recruited to the Kenya Army, which consequently saw her miss the trials and, with that, another chance to fly the Kenyan flag on the global stage. She spent the next eight months at Moi Barracks, passing out in October. She immediately joined the Armed Forces athletics team.
In 2007, Changeywo represented the Armed Forces team at the National Cross Country Championships but finished a disappointing 44th, thus missing out on yet another chance to fulfil her dream of representing Kenya. Come summer, she made another bid to make the Kenyan team – this time for World Championships in Osaka – but could finish only 5th (32:50.40) as yet another opportunity went up in smoke.
But Changeywo did make the Armed Forces team for the World Military Games, in Hyderabad, in October, and she partly made up for the disappointment of missing out on Osaka by beating her more illustrious compatriot, Irene Kwambai, to clinch 10,000m gold in 32:32.44.
In January 2008, Changeywo finished second at the Armed Forces Cross Country Championships. Then, at the National Cross Country Championships, on 1 March, in Nairobi, she finally realised her dream. In an unusually tough women's long race field, Changeywo battled hard to finish third and book an automatic slot for Edinburgh.
Changeywo is fully aware of what has derailed her chances of representing Kenya before. "My finishing kick is not strong and that is why I have struggled to make the national team,” she said. “I am working on it and I hope to improve it even further."
5000m: 15:27.18 (2005)
10,000m: 32:10.28 (2005)
5,000m: 2005: 15:27.18; 2007: 16:50.4.
10,000m: 2004: 32:19.5; 2005: 32:10.28; 2007: 32:32.44
2005: 1st - East Africa Cross Country Championships
2006: 1st - Shoe 4 Africa 10K
2007: 1st - 10,000m, World Military Games
2008: 2nd - Kenyan Armed Forces Cross Country Championships
Prepared by James Wokabi and Mutwiri Mutuota for the IAAF ‘Focus on Athletes’ project. Copyright IAAF 2008