There have been a lot of breakthroughs since track sprinter Lydia Stephens, track hurdler Diana Monks and swimmer Kay Donoghue became the first women to represent Kenya in global sporting competitions at the 1966 Commonwealth Games in Kingston, Jamaica.
Stephens would be joined two years later by the 18 year old duo of Elizabeth Chesire and Tekla Chemabwai as Kenya’s first female Olympians when they competed at the 1968 Olympic Games in Mexico City.
This is the first part of a look at trailblazing female athletes who have waved the Kenyan flag high at global competitions such as the Olympics, Commonwealth Games and World Championships.
At the 1974 Commonwealth Games in Christchurch, New Zealand, Sabina Chebichi won a bronze medal in the women’s 800m in a time of 2 minutes 02.61 seconds. This feat saw her become the first Kenyan woman to win a medal at any Commonwealth or Olympic Games.
Tekla Chemabwai bettered Sabina Chebichi’s women’s 800m bronze from Christchurch, claiming silver in the 1978 Commonwealth Games in Edmonton in a time of 2 minutes 02.87 seconds.
Sprinter Ruth Waithera broke ground for Kenyan women athletes, reaching the final of the 400m at the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles, her time of 51.56 seconds a Kenyan record over the distance at the time. She also the national record over 200m at the same games, clocking 23.37 seconds.
Susan Sirma created history by becoming the becoming the first black African woman to win a track and field medal at World Championship or Olympic level when she claimed bronze over 3000m at the 1991 IAAF World Championships in Tokyo, Japan in a time of 8 minutes 39.41 seconds.
In 1993, aged 15 years 153 days, Sally Barsosio won the 10,000 metres bronze medal at the 1993 World Championships in Stuttgart, Germany. This made her the youngest ever person to win a medal at the World Championships.
After a disappointing 11th place finish at the 1995 World Championships in Gothenburg, Sweden, Sally Barsosio bounced back in emphatic fashion when she won the 10,000m gold medal in a time of 31 minutes 32.92 seconds , becoming the first Kenyan woman to win a senior track title. Adding to her position as the youngest medalist, this win made her the youngest ever champion of the 10,000 m
At the 1994 World Cross Country Championships in Budapest, Hungary, Chepng’eno became the first Kenyan woman to win the long race and remained the only Kenyan national to win the long race at the until 2009 when Florence Kiplagat won the race.
Tecla Lorupe became the first Kenyan woman to win the New York Marathon when she clocked 2 hours 27 minutes and 37 seconds to finish first in 1994. She repeated the feat a year later in a time of 2 hours 28 minutes and 6 seconds.
Between 1997 and 1999, she won three world titles a row over the half marathon distance and was the first African woman to hold the marathon world record when she ran 2 hours 20 minutes and 43 seconds on 19 April 1998.
Pauline Konga became the first Kenyan woman to win an Olympic medal of any kind , claiming silver over 5000m in a time of 15 minutes 03.49 seconds at the 1996 Olympic games in Atlanta, USA.
Jackline Maranga and Esther Wanjiru
During the 1998 Commonwealth Games in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, Jackline Maranga and Esther Wanjiru became the first ever female athletes to win gold for Kenya when they emerged victorious in their respective events. Maranga won the 1500m in a games record time of 4 minutes 05.27 seconds while Wanjiru was triumphant in the 10000m, returning a time of 33 minutes 40.13 seconds.
Joyce Chepchumba picked up from where Pauline Konga left off in 1996, becoming the second Kenyan woman to claim an Olympic medal as she finished third to take bronze in the women’s marathon at the 2000 Olympic Games in Sydney, Australia.
Coming soon: Trailblazing Kenyan female athletes: 2001- 2020