Updated 9 May 2008
Eunice JEPKORIR, Kenya (3000m Steeplechase)
Born 17 February, 1982, Koibatek district, Rift Valley Province
Manager: David Kibellion
One of the pioneers of women’s Steeplechase in Kenya, Eunice Jepkorir has championed the relatively new discipline with unremitting commitment and focus. The African record holder and 2007 World bronze medallist, Jepkorir has been at the forefront as Kenyan women try to catch up with their more illustrious male counterparts in this most difficult of races.
Jepkorir went to Kambimoi and Tonuk Primary schools before joining Kambimoi High School. Inspired by multiple London Marathon champion Joyce Chepchumba, she always wanted to run from when she was young and started with 5000m while in primary school.
“I have always wanted to run,” Jepkorir said. “Even when I was young I knew I wanted to be an athlete.” Yet she never represented Kenya at junior level. Her career started taking shape in 2002 when she finished second to Irene Lemika in a 2000m Steeplechase in Eldoret, clocking 6:56.6.
The following year, Jepkorir engaged her spikes more frequently over the distance, with three successive victories (Nakuru, 6:54.2; Eldoret, 6:47.6; Nairobi, 6:25.2) in the Athletics Kenya Track Series meets to secure a berth at the National Championships. Competing in the 10,000m at the July event, Jepkorir clocked 32:58.0 to finish runner-up. A day later, she ran in her favoured 2000m Steeplechase, again placing second (6:29.6), behind Salome Chepchumba (6:27.4).
As the women’s Steeplechase was not part of the 2003 World Championships in Paris, Jepkorir attempted to represent Kenya by participating in the 10,000m at the trials in July. But she failed to make the grade, finishing fourth in 33:27.1. She then competed in her first European meeting, in Düsseldorf, Germany, where she finished second in a 10km road race (32:13) in September.
Making the national team for the 2004 World Cross Country Championships in Brussels, Jepkorir was the second placed Kenyan, finishing seventh in the long course race. A month later she ran her personal best in 10km (31:38) in Würzburg, Germany. In September, she set another personal best, at 5000m (15:09.05), at the Golden League meeting in Berlin.
Going into 2005, Jepkorir recorded three successive wins over 8km in the AK Cross Country Series. However, she could manage only eighth place at the trials for the World Cross Country in St-Etienne/St Galmier, France, and the thus failed to earn a place in the team. Later that year, having posted 10:19.0 for eighth place in the 3000m Steeplechase at the national championships in Nairobi in June, she then suffered a knee injury that forced her out for the rest of the year.
When Jepkorir resumed after the injury in 2006, she could not run the Steeplechase and concentrated on road races and 5000m. In October, she was selected to represent Kenya at the World Road Running Championships in Debrecen, Hungary. She returned a disappointing 14th but helped Kenya to win the team title.
“For me it was just great to be back in the national team and to win something for Kenya,” Jepkorir said. In December, she clocked an impressive 32:01 in Eldoret in a 10km road race.
An outstanding year for the steeplechaser was to follow in 2007 but only after she missed out on a place at the World Cross Country Championships in Mombasa, having placed eighth in the trials. At the beginning of April, she won a 10km race in Barcelona (31:49) and, in June, she began a spell in which she continuously improved her times in a a month.
On 2 June, Jepkorir ran the 12th fastest 3000m Steeplechase time of all time when she clocked 9:25.84 at the Dommelhof meeting, in Neerpelt, Belgium. That was followed by victory (9:30.45) at the Metropole Villeneuve d’Ascq meet before she set a new national record of 9:19.44 when she won the event at the Exxon Mobil Bislett Games in Oslo, Norway.
"This is my first international season, I think I have room for improvements," she said at the time. Turning briefly to the 5000m at the Golden Spike Grand Prix meeting, in Ostrava on June 27, Jepkorir finished fourth (15:19.97) behind three Ethiopians.
But she was soon back on her favourite event with another massive improvement. On 2 July in the Athens Grand Prix, Jepkorir lowered her personal best by almost five seconds and finished second behind World record holder Gulnara Samitova-Galkina of Russia, timing 9:14.52 for a new African 3000m Steeplechase record.
Come the national trials, Jepkorir easily blew away the rest of the field to book a ticket for the World Championships in Osaka. In Japan, she was by far the fastest qualifier for the final (9:32.27) and, in the medal race, she gamely chased the runaway Russian pair, Yekaterina Volkova and Tatyana Petrova, in the challenge for gold. But the Russians’ kick proved too strong and Jepkorir had to settle for bronze in 9:20.09. Volkova ran a Championship record 9:06.57 while Petrova clocked 9:09.19.
Jepkorir then made her first World Athletics Final appearance, in Stuttgart, in September, where she won the Steeplechase in a slow 9:35.03.
Going into 2008, following political unrest at home that resulted from disputed elections, Jepkorir showed some good cross country form in Spain. But, returning home for the national championships and trials, she failed to make the team for the World Cross Country Championships in Edinburgh.
She began her track season in Doha in May where she finished third (9:36.23) and on 9 June she was at the Bislett Games in Oslo, Norway, where she posted a slow time of 9:37.94 to finish a distant ninth.
A week later, she bounced back, setting a new personal best of 9:11.18 in Huelva to improve her own African record.
Back at the national trials in early July she fought off tough competition to finish second behind All Africa Games champion Ruth Bosibori in 9:51.28 to book a place in the Beijing squad.
Jepkorir then headed briefly back to Europe, winning her specialty in Athens (9:26.56) and Barcelona (9:18.76) before returning to Kenya to wind up her preparations for the Olympic Games in the training camp set up by the National Olympic Committee of Kenya.
3000m Steeplechase: 9:11.18 AR (2008)
5000m: 15:09.05 (2004)
10km: 31.38 (2004)
3000m Steeplechase: 2005: 10:19.0; 2006: - 2007: 9:14.52, 2008-9:11.18
5,000m: 2004: 15:09.05; 2005: - 2006: - 2007: 15:19.97
10km: 2004: 31:38; 2005: 32:19; 2006: 32:01; 2007: 31:49.
2004 7th World Cross Country Championships (long course)
2006 14th World Road Running Championships
2007 3rd World Championships (3000m Steeplechase)
2007 1st World Athletics Final (3000m Steeplechase)
Prepared by James Wokabi and Mutwiri Mutuota for the IAAF ‘Focus on Athletes’ project. Copyright IAAF 2008