Lydia Chebet ROTICH (3000m Steeplechase)
Born 8 August, 1988, Kipkilot location, Keiyo District, Rift Valley Province
Height: 163 cm (5' 5”); weight: 42kg
Coach: Patrick Sang/Joseph Chelimo
Manager: Jos Hermens
Marital status: Single
Team: Kenya Police
Family: Third born in a family of seven
Just like a steeplechaser, a traffic officer needs good sense of timing and patience. Rotich, a Kenya Police traffic officer based in Nairobi, aims at combining both attributes to develop an athletics career that is taking shape after illness induced layoffs.
Born to a family of small-scale farmers, Rotich spent all her childhood with her maternal uncle, Fred Chesengor, whom she refers to as ‘my older brother’ (a physiotherapist in the Kenyan national team, particularly the Paralympics team) and still resides with him to date.
Rotich began her schooling at Kasumbwa Primary before transferring to Chepkongi Primary where she completed her formative education. She joined Kapcherop Girls High School and while in her third year (Form 3), in 2005, she made her first foray at the National Secondary Schools competition.
“I started out in 5000m, but my performances were not good compared to what others were running. I decided then to try the steeplechase the following year since, not many were competing in it and my performances improved and that’s why I decided to adopt it,” she says.
In her last year of secondary school (2006), Rotich made it to the National Secondary Schools finals in the steeple, but failed to make the Beijing World Junior squad at the Kenyan Trials.
Rotich joined the IOC/IAAF High Performance Training Centre in Eldoret after finishing her education the following year and was active on Athletics Kenya (AK) weekend meetings, competing in the 4th (20 and 21 April/Kakamega/fourth in10:44.3) and 5th (5 May/Eldoret/fifth in 11:17.8) events.
However, she could not contest that year’s Kenya Championships and subsequent Trials for Osaka after going down with a bout of malaria. “Even when I recovered, I did not have enough time to train to peak and my coaches advised me to skip them altogether,” she said.
Having fully recovered at the start of the 2008 season, Rotich stunned World junior record holder and Osaka Worlds fourth finisher, Ruth Bosibori at the Trials for 16th CAA Africa Athletics Championships on April 18, taking the water and barriers race in 10:01.7 against the favourites’ 10:05.8.
She was on the plane to Addis Ababa for the continental championships, but two days after landing, Rotich came down with general body swelling that made her appear like someone who had been stung all over, ruling her out from competition on what would have been a debut performance for her country.
“Doctors told me I had developed an allergy and when I returned home, I visited the Moi Teaching and Referral Hospital in Eldoret where I was given medication for the condition, although the swelling had gone by the time we returned.
“I was very disappointed for missing out the event especially when my teammates were beaten by Ethiopians. I wished I would be there to help them, especially Ruth who did not have anyone to help her push the pace,” Rotich intoned.
Ethiopia’s Zemzem Ahmed and Mekdes Bekele claimed the top two medals as Bosibori came in for bronze, marking the first time Ethiopia had beaten bitter rivals Kenya and earned medals at the women’s water and barriers race, which has only been contested in the two previous editions of the event.
Rotich resumed training a month later upon recovery, after signing with Dutch manager Jos Hermens, and made her maiden trip abroad, breaking the 10 minute barrier for the first time with 9:56.81 in Neerpelt (31 May).
She geared up for the Beijing Olympics Trials, on returning home, with a third place finish in 9:59.8 at the 6 June Kenya Police Championships, having meanwhile joined their ranks. A season’s best performance of 9:55.62 followed in Huelva (13 June) but she placed outside the top ten.
She entered the chase for an Olympics slot at the 4 and 5 July Trials but a run of 10:23.55 for sixth effectively putting paid to her aspirations.
“After returning home from Spain, I was again struck by the allergy and this time, I chose to go to Eldoret Hospital where I was given different medication. I must offer thanks to those doctors there since, from that time, the illness has not returned.
“At the Olympics Trials, I gave my best but I had not fully recovered and I decided not to push myself too hard,” she recounted.
After the Trials, Rotich opted to report to Kenya Police Training College in Kiganjo in September for a nine-month constabulary training (where World Steeplechase silver winner, Richard Mateelong, was one of her instructors) and graduated as a Traffic Police officer seconded to Nairobi’s Traffic Police Headquarters in early May 2009.
But like fellow athletes attached to the force, she is not compelled to serve full time and immediately went to Kaptagat for training, making her return to competition on the European circuit in Nijmegen where she ran 9:46.13 for second (29 May) and Rehlingen (1 June), where she was fourth in 9:38.67.
She then placed third (9:41.13) at the Kenya Championships (27 June), before returning to Europe, where she clocked 9:30.29 for seventh in her first Golden League meeting in Rome (10 July) and ran her year’s best of 9:26.51 for third (13 July) in Athens before occupying the same position (9:53.62) at the 25 July Trials for the Berlin World Championships. With the top-two getting automatic passage and a third slot to be filled by AK’s selectors, Rotich was overlooked in favour of Bosibori who had finished fourth (10:08.33).
“I did not have hard feelings, I just accepted their decision. Bosibori was more experienced at major events compared to myself and I promised myself to work hard to make it next time.”
She closed her season with a maiden appearance at the last World Athletics Final in Thessaloniki, Greece where she finished fifth in 9:26.94 on 12 September.
The 2010 campaign was ushered by an eighth finish at the Kenya Police Cross championships (23 January) before returning 20th at the Trials for Bydgoszcz World Cross (20 February).
She opened her track season at the local, series but it is on the inaugural IAAF Diamond League circuit that Rotich thrived, stringing a hat-trick of third place finishes in Shanghai, Oslo and Rome, first bettering her PB to 9:21.38 in China (23 May) then improving again to 9:18.03 in Norway (/4 June), a performance that ranked her fourth in the world charts (as at 29 July) before posting 9:19.01 in Rome (10 June).
At the 26 June National Championships cum Trials for CAA 17th Africa Championships in Nairobi, Rotich sealed her place in the Kenyan team with a run of 9:50.44 to finish behind fellow officer and Berlin bronze winner, Milcah Chemos (9:34.28).
“What makes me happier is the fact that I will compete for my country having missed chances in the past and for this, I’m grateful to God. Once the race starts, I will give my best,” Rotich said before her home championships.
She plans on focusing on securing a place at the IAAF Continental Cup in Split and Commonwealth Games.
With earnings from her exploits, Rotich is assisting her parents but most importantly, educating her siblings whom she wants to focus on schooling first before thinking of following her footsteps in the sport.
3000m steeple: 9:18.03 (2010)
3000m Steeplechase: 2007-10:01.7; 2008-9:55.62; 2009-9:26.51; 2010-9:18.03
2009 5th World Athletics Final
2010 2nd National Championships
Prepared by James Wokabi and Mutwiri Mutuota for the IAAF ‘Focus on Athletes’ project. Copyright IAAF 2010