Updated 1 May 2008
Florence WASIKE, Kenya (Heptathlon)
Born: 20 March,1979, Karima Village, Tongaren, Bungoma District
Club: Kenya Prisons
Coach: Steven Mwaniki
Florence Wasike has returned this year to Heptathlon after reigning supreme in sprints in Kenya in the past few years. A multiple national champion, the Kenya Prisons warder was named the overall best sportswoman of the year at the National Championships for athletics in 2006 and 2007 as well as Kenya Prisons sportswoman of the year for four straight years.
The third born in a family of eight, Wasike attended Nabiswa Complex Primary school before joining Sirakaru High school from 1996 to 2000. “I loved running so I just started running as a joke then realised that it was in my blood and became serious about it,” she said.
Her father, who was a teacher, urged her to take it seriously while in class six. “My father used to run when he was young and he encouraged me,” she said.
In secondary school she blossomed into a top sprinter and, in 1999, she placed ninth in Heptathlon at the National Secondary School Games in Thika. “I could do almost everything on the track so I decided to try Heptathlon and I ended up reaching the nationals.”
The following year Wasike again reached the National Secondary School finals, this time finishing second in the 400m. Despite her sterling form in sprints, she never made any of the country’s junior teams. “I didn’t know that such competitions existed because I had no exposure,” she said.
Having cleared school in 2000, Wasike started 2001 by working at a pharmacy in Bungoma. She wanted to pursue further education but lacked the fees. “I wanted to do nursing but the cost of parallel degree was too much,” she said. But, in May that year, a former teacher spotted her selling in the chemist and took her to Kakamega where she was introduced to prisons coach Steven Kigai. He remembered her from her school days and offered her a chance to train with Prisons western.
Wasike impressed instantly, making the prisons team for the National Championships, where she came third in 400m and anchored the relay team to second place.
In 2002, she again came third in 400m at the National Championships.
During the same year she made valiant attempts to join the country’s disciplined forces. “I went for recruitment for the Army, Police, Administration P and NYS but was not successful,” she said.
In November, she realised her dream when Prisons announced recruitment. Wasike easily gained admission and joined for a nine-month training course to September 2003. At the 2003 National Championships, Wasike won the 200m (26.18) before coming fourth in 400m (56.41). At the National trials, two weeks later, Wasike came second in 200m (26.4) and sixth at 400m (57.0).
At the 2004 National Championships, Wasike won her favourite event, the 400m Hurdles in 60.71. At the trials for the Athens Olympics, she came fourth in 400m in 55.2. In the 2005 Nationals, Wasike won the 100m Hurdles (14.6) and the 400m Hurdles (57.73) as well as finishing third in the 400m (55:31). She came third in 400m at the National trials for the World Championships in Helsinki (54.41) but did not make the team (Kenya has not fielded athletes in sprints events at the Olympics and World Championships this millennium).
Wasike married David Masila Kilundo in September and, after the Commonwealth Games in Melbourne in March, she continued her dominance in sprint events in 2006. In Melbourne, she was disqualified in the semi-finals. In 400m flat, she finished seventh in her heat. At the National Championships, she won three national titles: the100m hurdles (14.9), 400m Hurdles (57.8) and Long Jump (5.76m). She also finished second in the 400m (54.3).
She made her debut at the African Athletics Championships in Bambous Mauritius, placing fifth in the 400m heats in 55.02 and sixth in the final (58.42) of the 400m Hurdles.
It was at these championships that she made a vow to return to Heptathlon.
“I had stopped competing in Heptathlon because there was no competition but, in Bambous, there were only three competitors and only one looked really good so I decided to try it at the next championships,” she said.
In 2007, continuing to play her full role for the Prisons team, Wasike won four events at an Athletics Kenya meeting in March - 400m Hurdles (63.34), 100m (12.9), 200m (25.9) and Long Jump (4.94m). In May, she won silver in 400m Hurdles at East Africa Championships in Kampala. At the National Championships in June, Wasike won the 100m Hurdles (14.67) and Long Jump (5.67) and finished second in the 400m Hurdles (58.31). At the National trials, Wasike came second in 400m in 54.63.
Wasike started 2008 in the best way possible, winning the Heptathlon at the first edition of the African Combined Events meeting in Mauritius in April. She scored 4715 points to beat three other women.
For a role model, Wasike looks to World and Olympic champion Carolina Kluft, of Sweden. “She is amazing in that she has almost no weakness and seems to do well in every discipline,” Wasike said. “Also to go for so long undefeated (since 2002) is absolutely amazing.”
Wasike pinpoints High Jump as one of the areas that she needs to work on in Heptathlon, “It poses problems for me but, on the plus side, I enjoy all the running.”
Heptathlon: 4715 (2008)
400m Hurdles: 2005 - 57.73, 2006 – 58.11; 2007 – 57.37
400m: 2004 - 55.2; 2005 - 55.31; 2006 - 55.02; 2007 - 54.63
Heptathlon: 2008 - 4715
2006 6th African Athletics Championships (400m Hurdles)
2007 1st Africa Combined Events (Heptathlon)
Prepared by James Wokabi and Mutwiri Mutuota for the IAAF ‘Focus on Athletes’ project. Copyright IAAF 2008