Born: 5 December 1989
Pamela Jelimo is a Kenyan Middle-distance runner, specialising in the 800m. She won a gold Medal in this event at the 2008 Olympics in Beijing at the age of 18. She is the first Kenyan woman to win an Olympic gold medal and also the first Kenyan to win the Golden League Jackpot. She holds both the 800 m world junior record and the senior African record over the same distance. Jelimo is also one of the youngest women to win an Olympic gold medal for Kenya.
Pamela Jelimo was born in Kiptamok village, Nandi District, Rift Valley Province. Her mother, Esther Cheptoo Keter, was a promising 200m and 400m runner, but the customs of the Nandi tribe meant that as the last-born daughter she could not marry and had to care for her parents in their old age. However, she was allowed to bear children to different men, thus Jelimo was raised by her mother in a family of three brothers and six sisters. Jelimo began running in 2003, aged 13, at Koyo Secondary in Kaptumo division, near Kapsabet. She quickly established herself as an accomplished athlete, winning at schools’ championships in the 100m, 200 m, 400 m, 800m, 400m Hurdles and Heptathlon. Her high school games teacher Philip Ng’eno remarked that she used to compete with the boys in sprint events as the girls did not provide the competition she needed.
The family was poor and struggled to pay the fees to send Jelimo to secondary school — her two older siblings had already dropped out as they were unable to meet the costs. She refused to quit and began selling milk from the family cattle to pay her fees, traversing steep slopes on foot to sell it at Chemase market.The school headmaster Daniel Maru donated money for track suits and running shoes so that Jelimo could attend Kenya’s centre of excellence for Distance running. By 2004, Jelimo had reached the local provincial championships in the 400 m. Maru continued his generosity, allowing the young athlete to graduate while she still owed one year’s worth of fees. Still, her mother was forced to sell her last cow so Jelimo could take her exams.Her family always supported her education.
In June 2007 she finished fifth in the 400 metres race at the Kenyan Championships with a time of 55.82 seconds. She kept improving throughout the season, winning the 400 metres gold medal at the African Junior Championshis with a finish of 54.93 s and setting a Kenyan national junior record in the 200 m with 24.68 s. Jelimo was pleased with her accomplishments but her new coach Zaid Kipkemboi Aziz suggested that she change to 800 m, stating that she would perform best over the longer distance. She began working for the Kenyan police force and was training with fellow Kenyan runner Janeth Jepkosgei.
Jelimo ran her first 800m race on 19 April 2008 at the Kenyan trials for the African championships, clocking 2:01.02 minutes. Despite her budding athletics career, she continued to work at the Embu Police station as a police constable, earning Kshs 11000 a month.
She made her breakthrough at the 2008 African Championships in Athletics aged 18. Her time, 1:58.70, was a new national junior record. On 25 May 2008 she won 800m at the Hengelo Grand Prix event and set a new World Junior Record of 1:55.76. The previous record (1:57.18) was set by Yuan Wang of China in 1993. It was also a new Kenyan record, previously held by Janeth Jepkosgei (1:56.04 in 2007). On 1 June 2008 she ran an impressive 800m race in Berlin and won the ISTAF Golden League in 1:54.99, a new African Record. The previous African record (1:55.19) was set by Maria Mutola in 1994.
On 18 July 2008 she bettered the record slightly to 1:54.97 in Paris. It was also her fourth consecutive win in AF Golden League, where she was one of only two remaining jackpot contenders, the other being high jumper Blanka Vlasic. On 18 August 2008 Jelimo won gold in the 800m at the Beijing Olympics. Her time was 1:54.87, again a record. She became the first Kenyan woman to win an Olympic gold medal.
She continued her unbeaten streak by winning the Weltklasse Golden League meeting in Zurich on 29 August 2008 improving her personal best to 1:54.01. This is the third fastest performance ever, behind Nadezhda Olizarenko and the world record of Jarmila Kratochvilova. At the Memorial van Damme competition in Brussels, in the ÅF Golden League final, Jelimo won the 800m with a time of 1:55.16. As the only athlete to win the same event at all six Golden League meetings, she won the competition’s jackpot of $1,000,000. The only other remaining, Blanca Vlasic, failed to win the last event. She is the first Kenyan to win Golden League jackpot.
She crowned her unbeaten season by winning her race at the 2008 IAAF World Athletics Final. After the event she returned to Kenya for the first time since the Olympic trials and was welcomed by major festivities. On 18 September 2008 in Kapsabet Town, a street – Pamela Jelimo Street – was named in her honour.
Jelimo was shortlisted for the IAAF World Athlete of the Year women’s category alongside Yelena Isinbayeva and Tirunesh Dibaba, but the award was won by Isinbayeva. Jelimo was awarded the IAAF Revelation of the Year Award and the 2008 Kenyan Sportswoman of the Year Award.
She missed the 2009 indoor season due to achilles strain developed while training. Instead, she started her season in April at the Athletics Kenya meeting in Kakamega, running 200m and 1500m races for training purposes. On 23 May she ran her first 800m race of the year at the Meeting International Mohammed VI in Rabat, Morocco, finishing sixth (time 2:02.46) – it was the first 800m race that she did not win. Two weeks later she finished last at the Prefontaine Classic meeting in Eugene, Oregon. Due to these dismal results, she concentrated on training for over a month. She successfully returned to track by winning the Heusden-Zolder meeting on 18 July running under two minutes (1:59.59).
She competed at the 2009 World Championships, but did not finish her semi-final. Jelimo returned to competition in April 2010, winning the 800m race at the Athletic Kenya meeting in Nakuru. She finished 8th at the Diamond League meeting in Shanghai, China. She failed to qualify for the 2010 African Championships held in Nairobi.
At the 2011 Prefontaine Classic she finished last in the 800m race, timing 2:09.12, almost nine seconds behind the second last runner, Jemma Simpson. It was Jelimo’s best time of the season recorded by IAAF.
Jelimo had a promising start for the 2012 season finishing second behind Malika Akkaoui of Morocco in an indoor meeting at Lievin, France, running a Kenyan indoor record of 1:59.10 seconds.Her indoor season was crowned by gold medal at the 2012 World Indoor Championships in Istanbul, Turkey, improving her time to 1:58.83 seconds. She was almost a second ahead of the silver medallist Nataliia Lupu of Ukraine.
She began the outdoor season with a win at the Doha 2012 Diamond League meeting in a record time of 1:56.94 minutes. She was beaten by Fantu Magiso at the Golden Gala, but was victorious at the Kenyan trials and then set a world-leading time of 1:56.76 at the KBC Night of Athletics.
Jelimo married Peter Kiprotich Murrey, who is also an 800m runner in late 2007. They had a simple civil ceremony and the marriage was not revealed in public untill December 2008.