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Updated 24 March 2009
James KIBET, Uganda (5000m, 10,000m, Half Marathon, Cross Country)
Born: 5 June 1984, Kaboreywo village, Bukwo
James Kibet recalls a time, back in 2007, when he had to walk about 30km while travelling from Bukwo to Kampala, Uganda’s capital city, to compete in a national championship. He did it for the love of athletics.
A member of the Standard High team, Kibet hails from Kaboreywo village, Bukwo District, one of the remotest areas in Uganda. “It rained very heavily that morning and the road through Kapchorwa got blocked,” Kibet recalled. “Cars couldn’t pass there yet we had to be in Kampala the following day. “I told my teammates that we should walk until we could access a public service vehicle. But it was not an easy journey.”
Kibet and his teammates walked through the slippery feeder road until they reached Kapchorwa, a district neighbouring their home area. They finally made it to the capital city but competing was a nightmare for the runners due to fatigue. “I had wanted to compete in the 10,000m but changed to the shorter 5000m,” Kibet said. “My legs felt so stiff and I could only finish fifth.”
One of Uganda’s best road runners, Kibet has been in and out of the national team. He thinks his journey to recognition has been full of ups and downs due to bad luck. “I pray that I get a good manager in Europe who can help me to take part in well-paying competitions in the near future,” he said. “That’s the only way I can make a breakthrough and good living.”
Born to Pariteka Chericha and Selda Cherotwo, Kibet grew up in a polygamous family but that didn’t stop him from pursuing his goals. A few years back, his father married another woman with whom he has two kids. Overall, Kibet is from a family of 10 siblings, four boys and six girls.
Kibet realised he had a running talent while in form six at Amanang Primary School in 1998. “Our home was very far from the school,” he said. “We could walk about 12km to and from school every day and I think that helped me in building my fitness.” Kibet took part in a 5000m race during the inter-class competitions, finishing fourth. He came fifth at the District inter-schools meet but couldn’t make the district team.
Although now retired, Kibet’s father was an English teacher at a neighbouring school, Swam Primary, and he encouraged him to continue running. Chericha moved his son to Swam Primary School, where he completed his form seven before joining senior one at Standard High School in 2000.
It was Alex Malinga, a fellow runner, who influenced Kibet to choose Standard ahead of other schools. That year Kibet made his debut on the national scene. He finished 11th in the 8km junior race at the national Nation Cross Country Championships held in the remote western Uganda district of Kihihi.
Unfortunately, Kibet missed the 2001 season due to injury and returned the following year. At the 2002 National Cross Country, Kibet finished an impressive fifth in the junior race and was sure of competing at the world stage. It was never to be. “They summoned over 12 runners for residential training,” he said. “After around three weeks in camp, the coaches gave us a trial race and I finished eighth. I was dropped from the team and I hate to remember how I felt. I decided to concentrate on my books and never competed again until 2003.”
Upon his return, Kibet finally made the cut to represent Uganda at the World Cross Country in Lausanne, Switzerland, after finishing fourth in the nationals. In Lausanne, he was Uganda’s second finisher in 13th position for the team, landing a junior bronze medal.
A few months later, Kibet signed a contract with the Ezra Track Team Board (ETTB), a local body that was, at the time, organising competitions without the approval of the national athletics governing body – Uganda Athletics Federation (UAF). Kibet snatched second position behind Moses Kipsiro in the 3000m (8:14) at the 2003 National Championships. In 2004, Kibet missed out on the World Cross Country as Uganda sent only a junior team.
The following year, Kibet switched to road running. He was beaten into second place by Nicholas Kiprono in the National Half Marathon and finished 57th in the World Half Marathon Championships, in Edmonton, Canada. “It was very cold and I had never competed in such weather conditions,” Kibet recalled.
Finishing fourth at the 2006 National Cross Country earned Kibet the right to represent Uganda in Eastern Africa. He placed 22nd at the Eastern Africa Cross Country Championships but was once again dropped for the world stage. Kibet returned for the Mombasa-hosted 2007 World Cross Country, finishing 39th and helping Uganda to its first senior team medal – a bronze – despite the sweltering heat.
In 2008, Kibet failed to hit his target of qualifying for the Olympic Games but was happy to remain injury-free. He also clocked 28:50 to finish fourth in 10,000m at the National Championships.
Heading to Amman, Jordan, for the 2009 World Cross Country Championships, Kibet is looking forward to putting up a performance good enough to open more doors for him. “I hope to run very well as an individual and I believe that, if my teammates remain in good health, we shall return with something,” said Kibet as the team finalised its residential training in Kapchorwa, eastern Uganda.
3000m: 8:14 (2003)
10,000m: 28:50 (2008)
20km 58:22 (2007)
Half Marathon: 1:02:07 (2007)
Half Marathon: 2004 – 1:07:45, 2005 – 1:08:36; 2006 - ; 2007 – 1:02:07; 2008: 1:06:09.
2003 13th World Cross Country Championships (junior)
2004: 46th World Half Marathon Championships
2005 57th World Half Marathon Championships
2005 84th World Cross Country Championships
2006 24th World Road Running Championships (20km)
2007 39th World Cross Country Championships
2007 28th World Road Running Championships (Half Marathon)
Prepared by Sande Bashaija for the IAAF ‘Focus on Athletes’ project. Copyright IAAF 2009.