A brief encounter, then a rapid exit

Pamela Jelimo stunned Europe on her debut last weekend but Kenyans have snatched her back. By Simon Turnbull

The International Association of Athletics Federations' programme of Golden League meetings gets under way in Berlin this afternoon, but the new golden girl of track and field will be conspicuously absent from the 1936 Olympic Stadium.

Following her stunning debut on the international circuit at the FBK Games at Hengelo in the Netherlands last weekend, Pamela Jelimo has been recalled to her homeland by the Kenyan athletics federation and placed firmly under wraps in a national training camp for "Olympic Probables" in Eldoret. "Maybe they just want to wrap her up in cotton wool and bring her out in Beijing," Britain's Jenny Meadows mused, "because she's probably going to be one of the star performers of the whole Games."

None of those who witnessed the women's 800m in the Fanny Blankers-Koen Stadium will doubt such an assertion. Meadows was one of 11 others on the track with Jelimo in the two-lap race and, a week on, she is still recovering from the experience. "Wow!" she said at the first mention of the 19-year-old Kenyan. "Absolutely phenomenal."

The lingering shock is understandable. Meadows has established herself at elite class internationally as an 800m runner over the past 18 months, breaking through the two-minute barrier and finishing sixth in the final at the World Indoor Championships in Valencia in March. The 27-year-old from Wigan was not exactly at her best in Holland but her time in sixth place, 2min 00.64sec, was her fastest-ever season's opener. Yet she finished almost five seconds down on Jelimo, a veritable street in world-class middle-distance terms.

"I was just absolutely shocked, to be quite honest," Meadows reflected. "I run with some guys in my training group and she was as far ahead as you would expect the guys to be. I've broken into world class myself, and you just don't expect to encounter such a phenomenal gap. I've read some comments from her saying she had plenty in reserve. I'm bewildered to think what time she thinks she can run. This girl is just absolutely phenomenal."

So it would seem. Jelimo's winning time in Hengelo was impressive enough: 1min 55.76sec, a world junior record, the fastest 800m by a woman for five years and the 20th fastest of all time, behind 14 performances that were set in the 1970s and 1980s by athletes from the Eastern Bloc of whom the East Germans at least were documentarily proven to have been on steroid regimes.

If anything, the manner of her victory was even more breathtaking. The teenager simply eased to the front with 300 metres left and breezed away from the field, opening up an increasingly yawning chasm and crossing the line 2.84sec ahead of her closest pursuer, Maryam Jamal of Bahrain, the world 1500m champion.

Rarely has such a middle-distance talent made such a jaw-dropping entrance on the international circuit. The International Track and Field Annual has only just hit the bookshelves at the start of the season and the name Jelimo does not appear among the 4,000 athletes listed in its index. So who exactly is this new wunderkind of the track?

Well, she was born on 1 January 1989 and until three months ago she was a sprinter. Last August she won the 400m at the African Junior Championships in Burkina Faso in a time of 54.93sec – decidedly modest in comparison with Meadows' best for the distance, 52.50sec.

In April she won the 800m at the Kenyan trials for the African Championships, running 2min 01.20sec, then on 4 May showed a hint of what was to come in Hengelo by winning the African title at high altitude in Addis Ababa, clocking 1min 58.70sec and claiming the prized scalp of Maria Mutola, the three-time outdoor world champion from Mozambique.

The question now is whether Janeth Jepkosgei, the 24-year-old Kenyan who took the World Championship 800m crown with a brilliant front-running display in Osaka last August, can contain her rapidly emerging compatriot. The pair, who sometimes run together at the Kapsabet Training Camp in the Rift Valley, were due to meet in Berlin today – until Athletics Kenya issued their urgent recall to Jelimo. "Pamela has shown she can run well but it should be controlled, so that she maintains top shape for the Olympics," Kenya's head coach, Julius Kirwa, said. "I have no opposition to her running in Europe but we should take care."

Jelimo herself is hungry for more. "I am looking for exposure in Europe, so that when I am in the Olympics I am well prepared," she said. "Hengelo was my first race on the circuit and I can do better. I have been doing serious training in Kenya and I have shown there that I am going to do even better. I can improve my time from Hengelo."

Life and Style
A teenager boy wakes up.
life
Life and Style
It is believed that historically rising rates of alcohol consumption have contributed to the increase
food + drink
Voices
The erotic novel Fifty Shades of Grey has already been blamed for a rise in the number of callouts to the fire brigade for people trapped in handcuffs
voicesJustine Elyot: Since Fifty Shades there's no need to be secretive about it — everyone's at it
Arts and Entertainment
Critics say Kipling showed loathing for India's primitive villagers in The Jungle Book
filmChristopher Walken, Bill Murray, Scarlett Johanssen Idris Elba, Andy Serkis, Benedict Cumberbatch, Cate Blanchett and Christian Bale
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
Playing to win: for Tanith Carey, pictured with Lily, right, and Clio, even simple games had to have an educational purpose
lifeTanith Carey explains what made her take her foot off the gas
Arts and Entertainment
The White Sails Hospital and Spa is to be built in the new Tunisia Economic City.
architectureRussian billionaire designs boat-shaped hospital for new Dubai-style Tunisia Economic City
Arts and Entertainment
You could be in the Glastonbury crowd next summer if you follow our tips for bagging tickets this week
music
Sport
Husain Abdullah returns an interception off Tom Brady for a touchdown
nflLeague has rules against 'sliding to ground on knees'
Life and Style
tech
Extras
indybest
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Java Developer - web services, XML and API

£330 - £350 Per Day: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client based in Lond...

Maths Teacher

Negotiable: Randstad Education Reading: Maths Teacher required to teach Furthe...

Primary teachers required for schools in Norwich

£21000 - £35000 per annum: Randstad Education Cambridge: Primary teachers requ...

Trainee Helpdesk Analyst / 1st Line Application Support Analyst

£18000 per annum: Ashdown Group: An established and growing IT Consultancy fir...

Day In a Page

Isis is an hour from Baghdad, the Iraq army has little chance against it, and air strikes won't help

Isis an hour away from Baghdad -

and with no sign of Iraq army being able to make a successful counter-attack
Turner Prize 2014 is frustratingly timid

Turner Prize 2014 is frustratingly timid

The exhibition nods to rich and potentially brilliant ideas, but steps back
Last chance to see: Half the world’s animals have disappeared over the last 40 years

Last chance to see...

The Earth’s animal wildlife population has halved in 40 years
So here's why teenagers are always grumpy - and it's not what you think

Truth behind teens' grumpiness

Early school hours mess with their biological clocks
Why can no one stop hackers putting celebrities' private photos online?

Hacked photos: the third wave

Why can no one stop hackers putting celebrities' private photos online?
Royal Ballet star dubbed 'Charlize Theron in pointe shoes' takes on Manon

Homegrown ballerina is on the rise

Royal Ballet star Melissa Hamilton is about to tackle the role of Manon
Education, eduction, education? Our growing fascination with what really goes on in school

Education, education, education

TV documentaries filmed in classrooms are now a genre in their own right
It’s reasonable to negotiate with the likes of Isis, so why don’t we do it and save lives?

It’s perfectly reasonable to negotiate with villains like Isis

So why don’t we do it and save some lives?
This man just ran a marathon in under 2 hours 3 minutes. Is a 2-hour race in sight?

Is a sub-2-hour race now within sight?

Dennis Kimetto breaks marathon record
We shall not be moved, say Stratford's single parents fighting eviction

Inside the E15 'occupation'

We shall not be moved, say Stratford single parents
Air strikes alone will fail to stop Isis

Air strikes alone will fail to stop Isis

Talks between all touched by the crisis in Syria and Iraq can achieve as much as the Tornadoes, says Patrick Cockburn
Nadhim Zahawi: From a refugee on welfare to the heart of No 10

Nadhim Zahawi: From a refugee on welfare to the heart of No 10

The Tory MP speaks for the first time about the devastating effect of his father's bankruptcy
Witches: A history of misogyny

Witches: A history of misogyny

The sexist abuse that haunts modern life is nothing new: women have been 'trolled' in art for 500 years
Shona Rhimes interview: Meet the most powerful woman in US television

Meet the most powerful woman in US television

Writer and producer of shows like Grey's Anatomy, Shonda Rhimes now has her own evening of primetime TV – but she’s taking it in her stride
'Before They Pass Away': Endangered communities photographed 'like Kate Moss'

Endangered communities photographed 'like Kate Moss'

Jimmy Nelson travelled the world to photograph 35 threatened tribes in an unashamedly glamorous style