2020 in Review: How track queens Obiri, Kipyegon balanced family and career


2020 in Review: How track queens Obiri, Kipyegon balanced family and career

In Summary

  • Obiri, an Olympic silver meddallist says balancing career and motherhood requires a lot of patience, and most importantly, an understanding family
  • The 31-year-old mother of one, says women athletes, even under normal circumstances, have a bigger price to pay in balancing between the track and family roles.
Caro Konesin Nairobi

When Covid-19 struck Kenya in March, 2020 and all sports activities came to a halt, the struggle of adjusting towards a future of uncertainties began in earnest amongst athletes.

It was even more pressing among the women athletes, especially the ones who have family responsibilities to juggle besides the demanding careers

A good examples of such is world 5,000m champion Hellen Obiri, whose dream of  bagging an Olympic gold was delayed by the pandemic, as the Olympic Games were pushed to 2021.

But despite that, Obiri was busy as before, balancing everything with grace – family and career.

The 31-year-old mother of one, says women athletes, even under normal circumstances, have a bigger price to pay in balancing between the track and family roles.

“Balancing family and career is sometimes challenging because you have to be with your family, there are situations that will only need  you – as a woman.  As an athlete there is a lifestyle you have to keep away from…like maybe you’ve been working the whole week and you want to go out with family or friends but you remember you have to train, you forget that. The main thing here is to have an understanding family,” explained Obiri.

And, just like the determined Obiri the world knows on the track, the 2019 World Cross Country Championships winner in Aarhus – Denmark – says she serves her family with similar dedication.

Hellen Obiri wins the 3000m at the IAAF Diamond League meeting in Doha (PHOTO/IAAF/Deca Text & Bild)

“When I’m at home, I’m a mother and a wife. When out there I am an athlete.  It is hard but we try to balance. You really need to have very understanding people around you, sometimes we go out for championships for about a month, but also God helps. We really pray hard because there are things you just leave to God to deal with,” underscored the Kenya Defence Forces officer, who has been in service since 2009.

But 2020 was more enigmatic, for an athlete used to strict programs, schedules and defined times.

“This year hasn’t been the one we expected because there were a lot of events we were gearing up for, especially the Olympic and the Diamond League. Mentally we were psyched up. I was to compete in so many races but I ended up doing only three DL meets. I still thank God for the few races because there are colleagues who never got an opportunity, and so I remain thankful hoping 2021 will be the best,” said Obiri.

Asked if there was a temptation of returning to normal training amid the pandemic, the 5,000m Olympic silver medalist advises that all should observe the “safety first” first principle.

Olympic 1,5000 champion Faith Kipyegon shares similar sentiments, saying success in both career and family is key, noting the Covid-19 pandemic called for more discipline to keep shape.

“In normal times, as an athlete and a mother, I try and give time for both sides. If my training is for two hours it will be strictly the planned time. Time for family is strictly for family.

“When I go outside the country for other championships, I have someone I trust so much with my baby. She has been with my daughter and helping me for the last three years,” narrated the 2017 1,500m world champion.

 

She continued: “This year has been tough, but we thank God for the health. I only did four races owing to the pandemic. It would have been very easy for an athlete to lose focus especially with the uncertainty we found ourselves in, but such moments define the sporting spirit in an athlete. I’m hoping next year will be better ahead of the Olympic Games.”

With athletics being among the disciplines given the green light for restart by the Ministry of Sports, quite ahead of the rest, the two track queens are already training hard hoping to recover the almost entirely lost 2020.

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Story By Carol Kones
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