TCS World 10K: Rose Chelimo braces up for 'tough and fast' race

The Kenya-born runner — representing Bahrain — will participate in the competition for the first time since 2016.

Rose Chelimo at Sree Kanteerava Stadium in Bengaluru on Friday. Photo: K. Murali Kumar

There has been considerable unease in the world of athletics over moves by rich Arab and middle-eastern nations to nationalise African runners and increase their medal prospects at the elite level.

But Rose Chelimo, who is Kenyan by birth but switched loyalty to Bahrain in 2015, seems to be living a dream. The 29-year-old quickly followed another Kenya-born athlete Ruth Jebet, who won Bahrain’s first-ever Olympic gold (3000m steeplechase) at Rio 2016, by clinching the marathon gold at the 2017 IAAF World Championships in London. A year later in Jakarta she was crowned Asia’s best too. 

“I am very happy to race for Bahrain,” said Chelimo ahead of the TCS World 10k, in which she last participated in 2016. “When they [Bahrain] contacted me, I accepted to go there. I still train full-time in Kenya. But I've gained a lot by moving to Bahrain. I want to end my career there."

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The attractions are manifold. Apart from big money, the proliferation of world-class athletes in Africa means it’s incredibly tough to stand out. Also the arbitrariness in picking teams — Kenya decided to fully move to a trails-only selection policy only in 2017 — hasn’t helped.

'Changed my life'

“There are just so many top runners in Kenya that it is tough to be recognised,” said Chelimo. “You need to be at a very high level to get into the national team. If I had remained in Kenya, I would not have even gotten selected! Now, that marathon win has changed my life. It also helped my family change their lives.”

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This fame has ensured that she is the biggest name at the World 10K here. Yet, a performance to match that will need considerable effort. Her personal best time of 32:04s was set way back in 2011.

“I feel very nervous in a 10K,” she admitted. “In a marathon after 10 kilometres you are still thinking about another 32 kilometres. Here it is tough and fast. The field is very good. But I have prepared for two weeks and I think it should work well.”