Ruth BOSIBORI, Kenya (3000m Steeplechase)
Born: 2 January 1988 in Bosiango, Kisii District, Nyanza Province
Lives in Dachuba, Kisii District
Camp: IAAF/IOC High Performance Training camp, Eldoret
Manager: Gianni Demadonna
Team: Kenya Police; Rank: Constable
In a short span of time, Ruth Bosibori has made the change from a barefooted runner to an athlete of international repute in a trailblazing 2007 when she first won the All Africa Games gold on her senior debut in an African junior Steeplechase record, then broke the continental mark again (9:31.20) in the Heats of the World Championships, in Osaka, before proceeding to smash the World junior record in the Final (9:25.25) where she placed fourth in her first global championships.
The Kenyan’s achievements in a whirlwind year saw her as only Kenyan runner honoured as the Rising Star of the year at the IAF World Athletics Gala in Monaco last November, upstaging women’s 800m World champion and compatriot Janeth Jepkosgei, who went on from Osaka to dominate the two-lap event after Osaka.
“Last year was such a wonderful experience that it gave me the urge to do more this year and beyond,” Bosibori said. “I want to run to the best of my ability and only God then knows what I can achieve.”
It was all different when Bosibori, born in Bosiango, started out. She had gained recognition as a barefoot athlete, even on Tartan tracks, and regardless of the weather. The World junior holder grew up in Kisii District, Nyanza South, a region in the west of Kenya that has produced numerous female distance athletes of pedigree. Like many young girls in that area, she was bitten by the athletics bug at secondary school.
Bosibori started running in 2003 while in Form 2 (the second year in the Kenyan secondary education system) and was inspired to take up the sport by two of her country’s most renowned female runners. “I had heard of Isabella Ochichi (Commonwealth Games 5000m champion) and Catherine Ndereba (4-time Boston Marathon winner and former World record holder) and wanted to be like them,” she said.
Ochichi hails from Kisii, as does Margaret Okayo, winner of big city marathons in London, New York and Boston. Of her preference for racing without shoes in her earlier career, Bosibori had explained: “I am used to running without them in the actual races and I win – but, when training, I wear training shoes.” Now, she says, she is all grown up and used to the idea of donning spikes as she continues her steady rise on the international front.
Bosibori, whose parents are peasant farmers, ran the 5000m, 10,000m and Steeplechase, the event she excelled at most, while studying at Kebirichi Secondary School in Masaba District, She posted 34 minutes (she cannot recall how many seconds) in 10,000m during national secondary school championships in 2004 at Moi International Sports Centre, Kasarani, Nairobi and finished 5th in 3000m Steeplechase at the same event one year later.
Her performance in the 2004 school championships caught the eye of the Athletics Kenya public relations officer and Nyanza South chairman, Peter Angwenyi. He took Bosibori into his rural residence, in Nyakoe Market, to allow her nurture to her talent and train in Kisii town where facilities exist.
Bosibori lived in Angwenyi’s home for two years “as one of my children,” he says, until she won the 2007 3000m Steeplechase in the South Nyanza provincial championships (staged to select runners for national trials in Kenya). Kenya Police noted her talent and immediately recruited her.
Easily victorious in the national trials in Nairobi for the All Africa Games in Algiers, an athlete still little-known in her own country had begun to form a winning habit. In the Algerian capital, she would carry Kenya’s hopes in an event in which her country’s men had won in all editions of the All Africa Games.
In Algiers, Bosibori took advantage of the absence of the World champion and record holder, Dorcus Inzikuru (Uganda) to claim gold in 9:31.99, a then Africa junior record. Such was her dominance that two Ethiopian challengers and pre-race favourites, Mekdes Bekele and Netsanet Achamo, finished 16 and 18 seconds respectively behind the Kenyan, who had steered clear after four laps.
Dan Muchoki, Bosibori’s coach, and in whose hands many talented young Kenyan runners have passed, noted then that she is “a very focused runner who believes she is the best in her discipline and has the drive to be exactly that.” Bosibori had never featured in any African or World junior athletics event, unlike her young compatriots who shone in Algiers.
Bosibori said that she had chosen to specialise in the Steeplechase because “I love seeing people jumping hurdles and it interests me a lot.” Only three days after returning from Algiers, Bosibori took to the track for Kenya trials for World Championships and finished 2nd (9:54.60) behind Eunice Jepkorir to book her place.
In Japan, Bosibori finished just outside the medals behind compatriot Jepkorir, who took bronze (9:20.09). “I saw how to jump hurdles and clear them faster,” she said. “I had a problem with them but, seeing how the Russians did it, I am sure that I will get better as I continue my training for Beijing.”
True to her promise of improving on her performance, Bosibori checked in for October’s Colorful Daegu meet where she ran 9:24.51 to lower her own World junior record in taking victory. After that, Bosibori went to the Kenya Police Training College in Kiganjo, Central Kenya, for training and was conscripted as a police constable on 18 March. Bosibori was also taken in by the IAAF/IOC High Performance Training Camp in Eldoret.
Bosibori was honoured as the 2007 Most Promising Sportswoman of the Year at Kenya’s premier sports gala, the Sports Personality of the Year (Soya) Awards. Back on the track, her appearance at the 1 March National Cross Country championships cum trials in the women’s senior race yielded a 27th placing as she began shaking off the dust from her rigorous police training.
At the 19 April national trials for the 16th African Championships, she was stunned by newcomer Lydia Rotich in her speciality, settling for second (10:05.8) to make the Addis Ababa squad.
“I have the Olympics in my sights and I want to do my best in Addis Ababa,” Bosibori said. “Then I intend to travel abroad for a few build-up meets before coming for the national trials that I know will be very competitive and nothing is automatic anymore.”
In Addis Ababa, she was the rank favourite, but could only manage third place. To the delight of the enthusiastic and vociferous crowd, home runner; Zemzem Ahmed stunned the World junior record holder in the women’s water and barrier race to take gold in a championships record of 9:44.58, while compatriot Mekdes Bekele (9:59.52) narrowly took silver ahead of Bosibori )10:00.18).
“I need to train harder for the Olympic trials to improve on my performance; the medal is good but I wanted the gold,” she said then. Rotich, the newcomer did not feature in the race as an allergic attack left her face and feet swollen.
In May, Bosibori showed a turnaround for the better in form returning 9:32.15 at the Doha Super Grand Prix for second before finishing fifth in a personal best of 9:18.43 at the Oslo Golden League meet in June.
She won the Kenyan Olympic trials at a canter in 9:48.78, beating Africa record holder, Eunice Jepkorir to second (9:51.28) in a race she led from the third lap.
Bosibori was named to the Beijing squad with Jepkorir as 2006 World junior 1500m champion, Veronica Nyaruai (fifth, 10:22.22) got the wildcard ticket.
The World junior champion ran her last build-up race at the Athens Grand Prix where she finished third (9:30.23) on 13 July.
The last born in family of two sons and one daughter, the challenge for Bosibori is to fulfil the potential she showed last year on the big stage.
“I am getting in good shape and I hope to perform well at the Olympics,” she said.
3000m Steeplechase: 9:18.43 (2008)
2007 1st All Africa Games
2007 4th World Championships
2008 2nd 16th Africa Athletics Championships
Prepared by James Wokabi and Mutwiri Mutuota for the IAAF ‘Focus on Athletes’ project. Copyright IAAF 2008