Pamela Jelimo's Million Dollar Season, by Bob Ramsak, Notes by Larry Eder


Pamela Jelimo burst on the scene at the Berlin ISATF meet on June 1, and has taken the 800 meters by storm, winning with her brazen 800 meter front running tactics, and making sub 1:55 800 meter runs nearly commonplace.

Her Olympic win was spectacular, especially with the conditions. It was ironic that her rise has come as Maria Mutola, who has virtually owned the 800 meters for the past decade, was entering the autumn of her long career.



By Bob Ramsak
(c) 2008 TRACK PROFILE Report, all rights reserved

BRUSSELS -- When the Golden League events were selected last December, Pamela Jelimo, a largely unknown junior even in her native Kenya, had yet to contest her first 800m race. Tonight, the 18-year-old capped one of the most extraordinary rises from obscurity to win the $1 million AF Golden League Jackpot, the largest prize in track and field.

“I am happy, I realized my dream,” said Jelimo, who became the first sole winner of the prize since triple jumper Tatyana Lebedeva went six-for-six in this series of the world’s finest one-day meets in 2005. “This is the same happiness as in Beijing.”

In what is now trademark fashion, Jelimo went out fast from the gun, tailing pacesetter Svetlana Klyuka from the outset. By 400m, Klyuka, who was fourth at the Olympic Games, was already laboring to keep a step ahead of the Kenyan; at the 600m mark (1:25.42 by Jelimo), she had already stepped aside, with Jelimo then sailing home in 1:55.16, more than three-and-a-half seconds clear of runner-up Janeth Jepkosgei (1:58.85).

She would have to wait about a half hour for the women’s high jump to conclude before banking the entire prize pot.

The chilly conditions and wet surface --along with $500,000 riding on the outcome-- made for a dramatic competition but it was clear early on that Blanka Vlasic was having a rare off night. Struggling from the get-go, she ran into trouble when the bar was raised to a 1.94m. At a height which probably last gave her problems during her days in junior competition, Vlasic would need all three efforts before sailing clear. Germany’s Ariane Friedrich cleared on her first attempt, and Olympic champion Tia Hellebaut on her second. At 1.97, Friedrich again went clear with her first leap, with Vlasic needing two. Much to the delight of the sell-out crowd, Hellebaut stayed alive with a third attempt success. At two metres, both Freidrich and Vlasic cleared with their second tries, with Hellebaut again clearing on her third. All failed at 2.02, leaving Vlasic the runner-up, and ultimately, empty-handed.

“I sympathize for her, but that is the nature of this sport,” Jelimo, the Olympic champion, said of her Jackpot chase rival. “Today you lose, but tomorrow you can do your best and be a winner again. And that is what I wish for her.”

Jelimo said she hasn’t given much thought to how her money will be spent, but indicated that most of it will be shared with her family in Eldoret.

“I will have to help my family,” she said. “I will invest intelligently because this money will help me and my family in the future.”

(For more on Jelimo, please check Bob Ramsak's IAAF piece at

The 32nd edition of Belgium’s largest sporting event was sold out for the 12th straight year, filling the Roi Baudouin Stadium with one of the most memorable atmospheres of the 14-week long Golden League series. But the damp conditions, coupled with post-Olympic fatigue, produced primarily lackluster results on a packed program. The men’s 100m however, the race of the evening, was a notable exception.

- Bolt Caps Season With 9.77 Scorcher

In their first meeting since the Olympic 100m final, Usain Bolt came from behind over the final 35 meters to beat Asafa Powell, the man he succeeded as world’s fastest man. Running against a 1.3 meter/second wind, the triple Olympic champion clocked a meet record 9.77 seconds, equaling the sixth fastest performance of all-time, despite a sluggish 0.22 second reaction time.

“I’m still not used to all the different starters,” said Bolt, who only began running the 100m seriously this season.

Continuing his strong late season campaign, Powell stopped the clock in 9.83.

"Since I've been running, this has been the most exciting race I've ever been in," said Powell. "I knew it was going to be close, as I've been running well. But he got me at the end."

- Cheruiyot Upsets Defar

In a pack middle and long distance program, he biggest surprise came in the women’s 5000m, dubbed as a world record assault by former standard bearer Meseret Defar. But well behind schedule and running at the front by 3000m (8:41.14), the Ethiopian world 5000m champion was forced to just work for victory. But with a few laps to go, she found herself in a fierce tussle with Vivian Cheruiyot. The Kenyan, who chased Defar to her 2007 world record in Oslo, didn’t let up over the final lap and as the pair ran down the homestretch, it was Cheruiyot, who took silver behind Defar at last year’s world championships, who prevailed, 14:25.43 to 14:25.52.

“I nearly always come behind Defar and so to beat her is very nice,” said Cheruiyot, whose run was a meet record.

Unlike the high jump, The pole vault was entirely bereft of any drama. Whatsoever. The entire field was already done for the evening before megastar Yelena Isinbayeva even took her first jump. That happened to be a miss at 4.72m, which she cleared with plenty to spare on her second try. 4.85m proved too much on a night when 4.56 was the limit for finishers two through four.

- Emotional Farewell for Gevaert

As far as the sell-out crowd at the Roi Baudouin Stadium was concerned, the biggest star in attendance --Bolt not included-- was Kim Gevaert, the two-time European double sprint champion, who was contesting her final race. And true to script, she prevailed.

Running against a modest field, she was never seriously threatened to win in 11.25 ahead of Olympic finalist Debbie Ferguson (11.32) of the Bahamas whose typical strong finish was conspicuously missing.

- Kamel takes impressive 800m win

Youssef Saad Kamel, the former Kenyan Gregory Konchellah, continued his late-season charge with a solid victory in the 800. Just three days after a PB victory in the Lausanne 1500m, Kamel kicked to a 1:44.56 win, taking down Olympic bronze medallist Alfred Kirwa Yego and Moroccan Amine Laalou, who were virtually inseparable at the line and each credited with 1:45.01. Olympic champion Wilfred Bungei, running at the front with pacesetter Ismail Kombich over the first lap, faded badly over the final 100 meters, and finished a well-beaten seventh (1:46.01).

Ali Belal Mansour of Bahrain took a scrappy victory in the 1500, clocking 3:35.94. In a blanket finish, Abdelaati Iguider (3:36.14) of Morocco held off Olympic bronze medallist Nick Willis (3:36.23), who moved from fifth to third over the final the 50 meters.

Capping the evening was the men’s 10,000m, which with the absence of world record holder and Olympic champion Kenenisa Bekele, was won, predictably, by his constant shadow, Sileshi Sihine. The Ethiopian kicked past Kenyan Moses Masai in the waning stages to take the win in 27:06.97 to Masai’s 27:07.26, with Bernard Kipyego third (27:08.06).

With rival LaShawn Merritt, the Olympic champion, taking the weekend off, Jeremy Wariner collected his fifth GL victory, winning by nearly a full second in 44.44. Briton Martyn Rooney was closest, taking the runner-up spot in 45.34, with African record holder Gary Kikaya (45.34) third.

Likewise, Kerron Clement, minus Olympic champion Angelo Taylor in the field, easily kicked to victory off the final hurdle to defeat Jamaican Danny McFarlane in 48.29.

Paul Kipsiele Koech didn’t get the sub-eight clocking in the steeplechase that he came here for, but he did take down a big name: Olympic champion Brimin Kipruto. Koech, who didn’t earn a spot to Beijing at the Kenyan trials, was clearly in command throughout and by the time second pacer Patrick Langat stepped aside, Koech was all alone over the final two laps. He went on to win handily in 8:04.99, well ahead of Kipruto (8:10.26), who outdistanced Kenyan-born Bahraini Tareq Mubarak Taher (8:15.32).

The pace in the men’s 5000m, run in a steady rain in the meet’s pre-program, was some 13 seconds behind schedule at 3000m (7:57.14), thus Eliud Kipchoge’s assault on Kenenisa Bekele’s world leading 12:50.18 never materialized. The Olympic silver medallist did however maintain his spot in the driver’s seat. In an otherwise straightforward race, the Kenyan took the lead with a lap-and-a-half to go to take the win unchallenged in 13:06.12. Isaac Songok (13:06.71) was second and Mang’ata Ndiwa (13:07.46) third to round out a Kenyan sweep. Briton Mo Farah ran a season’s best 13:08.11 for fourth.

Elsewhere, world champion Tero Pitkamaki won the javelin throw with an 85.32m effort, relegating two-time Olympic champion Andreas Thorkildsen to third (82.39) with Latvian Ainars Kovals (84.76) splitting the Finn and Norwegian.

American Miguel Pate won the long jump with an 8.02m best, Jamaican Delloreen Ennis-London edged Lolo Jones in the 100m hurdles by just 0.02 seconds in 12.65, and Marshevet Hooker upset Olympic bronze medallist Kerron Stewart (22.76).

With two major stops --Rieti, Italy, on Sunday and Zagreb, Croatia, on Tuesday-- remaining on the calendar, the European season will reach its conclusion at the two-day World Athletics Final in Stuttgart next weekend.


Used with permission of Bob Ramsak,

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