Isabella Bosibori OCHICHI (oh-CHEE-chee), Kenya (road races/ 5000m/ cross)
Born 28 October 1979, Kisii, Kisii District, Nyanza Province, Kenya
Police constable. Lives mainly in Nairobi. European base: Brest, France
Married to road racer David Maina.
Manager: Gwenaël Vigot. Coach: Prof. Veronique Billat
Native language: Kisii (Gusii). Father, deceased, was a farmer.
Recommended by friends from Kisii to manager Vigot in 1997; entered nine small road races in France that year (at age 17) and won eight. 1998 season interrupted by severe bout of malaria, resulting in 17-month layoff. Returned to competition in September 1999 with four straight road wins. In 2000 won 11 French road races (setting six course records), including Paris-Versailles.
Started 2001 season with a couple of track races in Kenya, then back to roads in France, repeating in Paris-Versailles with a course record and taking 11 additional first places and three more course records, including a 31:29 in 10 km de Marseille. Broadened horizons to Netherlands, taking 2nd in Dam tot Dam 10M. Selected for Kenya's World Half Marathon team and finished 8th in Bristol, collecting a team gold. Joined Kenya Police, where she benefited from team training, and at end of summer season came under tutelage of coach Billat, who saw enormous potential in results of physiological tests performed on Ochichi.
Tried cross country for first time at end of 2001, winning two races in France. Then in 2002 took 3rd at 4 km in Kenya World Cross trials and 3rd again at Dublin World Cross. Improved 10 km PB to 30:53 (world's fourth fastest in 2002) in winning La Courneuve. Ran in seven Grand Prix races and the Grand Prix Final, recording an impressive 8:37.66 at 3000 in Monaco and twice flirting with 15-minute barrier at 5000 (15:01.42 in Rome GL; 15:01.89 in Berlin GL), though slowed by another bout of malaria.
Began 2003 by winning 8 km at Kenyan Armed Forces cross country and then surprising defending World Champion Edith Masai in 4 km at Kenyan World Cross trials, winning by seven seconds. Slipped to 4th at 4 km in Lausanne World Cross, but bounced back on the roads with a PB 2nd place in Carlsbad (14:56 for 5 km, behind Berhane Adere’s world-record-equaling 14:54) and big wins in New Orleans (31:24 for 10 km) and Nice (68:42 half-marathon). After three 2nd places in early races on the European track circuit, returned to Kenya for another 2nd behind Masai in the National Championships 5000 and a disappointing 4th at 5000 in the World Championships trials.
Bounced back again on returning to Europe, cracking the 15 minute mark for 5000 with a strong win at Heusden (14:52.33) and following up with a 2nd to Masai three days later in Stockholm (14:53.51). A confident 14:56.63 qualifier in the first round of the Paris World Championships 5000 marked Ochichi as a contender, but she was forced to settle for 6th in the last-lap scramble of the final. Closed out the track season with three more notable performances at 5000: a PB 14:47.70 for 2nd in the Brussels GL, 5th in the World Athletics Final (15:00.04) and a bronze medal at the All-African Games in Nigeria.
2004 began modestly with a 5th at 4 km in the Kenyan World Cross trials and another 5th at the World Cross itself, but on the roads and the track Ochichi continued her steady year-to-year progress, finally reaching the very top international level. In the Carlsbad 5 km, a week after the World Cross, she recorded a short-lived world road best of 14:53 (Paula Radcliffe’s earlier 14:51 awaited a course remeasurement); she repeated her victory in the New Orleans 10 km (31:36) and won Washington’s Cherry Blossom 10M (52:07) by a 53-second margin over Catherine Ndereba. She then took to the track with a PB 14:46.42 win in the Hengelo 5000m (beating Werknesh Kidane, among others) and another win in the Seville GP (14:55.95) a week later. In July, after qualifying comfortably for Athens in Kenya’s Olympic trials, she recorded two big wins at 3000m, in the Madrid Super GP (8:37.68) and the Paris GL (PB and world leading 8:31.32, pulling fellow Kenyans Alice Timbilil and Sally Barsosio to a PB and season best, respectively).
The 24-year-old Ochichi was clearly sharper than ever going into the Olympics, and she performed up to expectations. As the pace quickened in the 5000m final behind world record holder Elvan Abeylegesse, Ochichi remained in close contact, and when Abeylegesse faded, Ochichi took the lead in an effort to burn the kick out of Ethiopia’s Meseret Defar, who was sitting on her shoulder. Meseret was too strong, however, and sped past Ochichi around the final turn. The Kenyan hung on for a well-earned silver (14:48.19). After a three-week break she returned to action in Berlin, finishing a close third (14:59.69) behind Masai and Ethiopia’s Berhane Adere. A week later she move up a notch to 2nd (14:59.48) at the World Athletics Final to close out her season.
Ochichi picked up where she left off in 2005 with two strong cross country outings in France in January (winning the Cross Ouest and barely losing to Susan Chepkemei in Tourcoing), but she seemed off form at Kenya’s World Cross trials in February. Moving up in distance, she finished a lowly 17th in the 8k race, but was taken to the training camp on the strength of her past performances and eventually named to the team. Indeed, she was named to both the 4k and 8k teams, an unprecedented double for Kenya, where the one-day trials had always ruled out anyone qualifying in both events. Ochichi proved the team selectors right by finishing a solid 5th (2nd Kenyan) in the long race the first day and coming back the next to take a bronze medal in the short race, leading her countrywomen to two team silvers.
A quick spring tour of the US roads produced another fast 2nd place at Carlsbad (14:55, this time behind double World Cross Champ Tirunesh Dibaba’s world-record equaling 14:51) and an African road best for 10 km (30:27) in winning the Crescent City Classic in New Orleans. Track season began well, too, with strong outings over both 3000 and 5000 – a 3rd, two 2nd and two 1st places on the Grand Prix circuit and a big win over 5000 in Kenya’s World Championships trials. But all was clearly not quite well in Helsinki. Running in the slower of the two preliminary heats, Ochichi had to struggle to qualify on time for the final, and then, though she ran among the leaders until the race’s closing stages, she was out of the medal hunt as soon as the Ethiopian juggernaut kicked into gear, finishing a disappointing 8th (14:45.14). A PB 14:38.21 in the Brussels GL 5000 (finishing 4th) closed the season on a somewhat higher note.
So far, 2006 has looked like a return to 2004 form on the track. Ochichi won Kenya’s Commonwealth Games trials 5000 by more than 20 seconds and then took a closely contested gold in Melbourne with an excellent early-season 14:57.84. Concentrating on her Commonwealth preparations, she finished only 5th in the 4k at Kenya’s final World Cross trials, but on the strength of her Commonwealth performance, selectors may once again have the sense to enter Ochichi for both races in Fukuoka.
Yearly progression, 3000m/ 5000m: 2002 - 8:37.66/ 15:01.42; 2003 - 8:45.97/ 14:47.70; 2004 – 8:31.32/ 14:46.42; 2005 - 8:31.42/ 14:38.21; 2006 – 14:57.84
Other PBs: 5 km - 14:53 (Carlsbad 2004); 10 km - 30:27 (2005); half-mar - 68:38 (2001).
Prepared by John Manners for the IAAF. © IAAF 2003-06.