|Emmanuel Wanyonyi, photo by World Athletics|
This week, Emmanuel Wanyonyi has been announced to be one of the five nominees for the World Athletics title of the male rising star of the year. Below is a story I did of him after visiting their camp in Kapsabet, a few days after his spectacular performance at the World Athletics Under 20 championships in Kasarani
Thanks to Janeth Jepkosgei who allowed me to visit her training camp and interact with the young runners there, I was lucky to meet Emmanuel Wanyonyi, who was back at the camp after his amazing 1:43.76 800m run to win the world athletics U20 title in Kasarani. The camp had a total of three runners winning medals at the championships.
From an almost hopeless situation of being a paid herder who lived from hand to mouth, Wanyonyi saw some runners out on training while he was herding cattle and asked himself, "why not try this too?"
By then he had dropped out of primary school due to financial difficulties in their family and had spent "some years" herding cattle at the village in order to get some money to cater for some of his basic needs. Herding is one of the hardest, despised, and low-paying jobs here in Kenya.
The first run that Wanyonyi did after he decided to become a runner was about fifteen laps on a nearby school track, which he didn't count. His legs and body would hurt him so much the following day, but he never lost hope.
"I would just go out running whenever I had the time, not knowing what distance I was covering nor the duration I would spend in a single run. Sometimes, I would use the track on the primary school nearby and one time some teachers saw me training hard and asked me to go back to school so that I would represent them at the track and field games." Wanyonyi explained how he started running.
At school, Wanyonyi finally got to represent his primary school in track events ranging from 5,000m down to 400m. But, interestingly, he won all the race distances in school. He proceeded to the regional level where he ran in the 1500m, 3,000m steeplechase, and the 4x400m relays and made it to the nationals where he got to meet the principal of Kosirai High School who invited him to report at the school for his secondary education in 2020.