Year in Review: Barrier breaker Chespol
- Celliphine Chespol made a splash – both figuratively and literally – when she made her international debut in 2015
- Little was known of the Kenyan 16-year-old before the IAAF World U18 Championships Cali 2015. Indeed, she wasn’t tipped as a likely gold medallist because she had finished a distant second at the Kenyan trials
Celliphine Chespol made a splash – both figuratively and literally – when she made her international debut in 2015.
Little was known of the Kenyan 16-year-old before the IAAF World U18 Championships Cali 2015. Indeed, she wasn’t tipped as a likely gold medallist because she had finished a distant second at the Kenyan trials, eight seconds behind teammate Sandra Tuei.
But she timed her peak to perfection in the Colombian city and won comfortably in 6:17.15.
At the IAAF World U20 Championships Bydgoszcz 2016 one year later, Chespol was unable to fly under the radar again. Not only was she the reigning world U18 champion, she had also clocked a PB of 9:24.73 at the IAAF Diamond League meeting in Shanghai earlier in the season, a world U18 best and the fastest time in the world that year by an U20 athlete.
She duly won in Bydgoszcz with a nine-second margin, clocking a championship record of 9:25.15.
Before focusing on the track season in 2017, Chespol started her year with a brief cross-country campaign and earned a bronze medal in the U20 women’s race at the IAAF World Cross Country Championships Kampala 2017.
She was back steeplechasing just six weeks later and opened with a world U20 record of 9:05.70 at the IAAF Diamond League meeting in Doha. There was more to come, though, as she chopped another seven seconds off that mark when winning at the IAAF Diamond League meeting in Eugene.
Despite having to stop to fix her shoe that had become dislodged, Chespol crossed the line in 8:58.78 to become just the third woman in history up until that point to break the nine-minute barrier. She moved to second on the world all-time list and consolidated her top spot on the world U20 all-time list.
A victory at the Kenyan Trials secured Chespol’s spot on the national team for the IAAF World Championships London 2017 later that year. After winning her heat, she finished a respectable sixth in the final in 9:15.04.
Chespol once again focused on cross country at the start of 2018 and won the gold medal in the senior women’s race at the African Cross Country Championships in Chlef.
Although she didn’t better her steeplechase PB in 2018, Chespol improved her consistency and finished in the top two in all but two of her races. She took silver at the Commonwealth Games, finished second at the Kenyan Championships and at the senior African Championships.
She also successfully defended her title at the IAAF World U20 Championships Tampere 2018, taking 13 seconds off her own championship record with her winning time of 9:12.78.
Chespol ended her year by taking victory at the prestigious Manchester Road Race in Connecticut on what was her road racing debut.
Three different surfaces, three significant victories. Chespol isn’t just a fantastic steeplechaser; she is a genuine triple threat on all terrains.
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