National triple jump record holder Gloria Mulei has cut her niche in the field events, competing in triple and long jumps following her all time victories in high school, hoping to break Africa and world record in her specialities.
The former Kwanthanze girls, a school associated with producing top volleyball players in the country won all her field events, ruling both national and East Africa school championships for four years.
Born and raised in Kitui County, Mulei started the sport while in standard five at Mutulu primary school after seeing a gap where Kenya had no representatives in the long and triple jump.
But her journey to stardom has been shaped by youtube where Kenya lacks coaches for her two events.
“Soon you may call me ‘YouTube Mulei because I sharpen my skills through youtube unlike other disciplines’” said Mulei.
“My target is to break Africa or world record. The journey has not been easy after my friend demoralized me that field events are not marketable especially in Kenya where people value track events only. But I am determined knowing that one day my great moment in the sport will shine and once IAAF will give qualifiers for field events I will make it,” said Mulei.
Growing up in a rural village, there was no one to motivate, give her support or someone to emulate or no coach to train and nurture her talent rare.
“Most times, I used to see how individuals jump through television sets and wanted to try master and perfect it by myself. Since class five until now, I have been training and perfecting the skills by myself because I don’t have a coach,” added Mulei.
With abundance of internet, she has been slowly perfecting her skills through YouTube, the same way Julius Yego, the former world javelin champion learnt the throwing sport through youtube.
“Mostly I watch much Youtube to perfect my steps in the jumps. After watching, I go to the ground to train for perfection. It is through youtube that I do what do best without a coach. And remember this, one day if I will break Africa or world record, you will call me YouTube Mulei,” insisted Mulei amid laughter.
She takes much of her time to browse to master the jumping skills. Not all time she has bundles to stay long enough online to understand the skills. She has to download a clip, watch it slowly to master them and at 10:00 am she will have had enough views to put them into practice.
Her breakthrough came during the 2017 world under 18 championships. The unknown athlete from Mutulu first wore the national colours to represent her country in the field events.
She jumped 12:48 to finish in position 8th at the world under 18 championships at Kasarani but the results motivated her to take the sport seriously.
Her best results earned her a place in the 2018 World under 20 in Tampere, Finland where she was still in school with little training time.
“That was the most challenging moments for me because some teachers were hard on me to concentrate in class, but the little time I got especially during weekends I train and jumped to break the first record in 2018 of 12:91m at the world under 20 then held by Caroline Kola to 12:97m to finish number 6th though it was not considered but never gave up because it was my event and I was the one who chose it. The same year, I jumped for a national record of 13:05m,” said Mulei.
Back at the 2017 world under 18, she won the national schools championships then went for a trial and made the qualification standards of 12:60m in the long jump during trials though she did not jump the same time at the championships to 12:48.
In 2019 during All Africa Games in Morocco, she broke her own record to 13:05, it was the same time at national championships and she was officially handed the record after finishing 5th the position she never expected.
The poor results are associated with poor coaching system by Athletics Kenya coaches who give her wrong training programme.
“There are so many challenges in this sport. There is no coach in Kenya to train. Once you enter team Kenya you are not given a coach and lands a sprint coach, they give you a programme that suits track yet my programme as a jumper is totally different. A coach decides that I should go for a 20km long run, which is not of any help to my programme. If it is hurdles, I will do with another related exercise,” lamented Mulei.
She says that during her own training she sets good results especially during national trials but once she qualifies for joining the team her results decline.
“Many have been asking me why I perform well at trials but not at championships. The problem lies with our coaches. Am given track coach gives me a different programme and my performance goes down. The same people complain about my results. They say I only want to make the team and post poor results. That is not the reason. The reason is that being given a totally different training programme that suits track athletes, not field. They should stop blaming me for poor results they are the problem after changing my programme,” lamented Mulei.
While in camp, she is forced to adopt a different programme that she is not used to. She complained that if she can decide to stick to her programme, she will be labelled as a rude athlete in the camp.
“I will be told that I don’t listen to the coach’s instructions. As an athlete, I have nothing to do but to comply with new rules that can’t make sense at all. I am told to go for 20km long run, I will just go because I have no powers to stop the programme that can’t suit me,” cried Mulei
She was eyeing an Olympic Games and World under 20 slots but the two world events have been postponed due to coronavirus pandemic.
She says that if she can get a coach, she will perform and post good results. “If I can coach myself and register good results, breaking a record that had stood for over 18 years, I can break the African record and if I miss the world record, I can jump closer to that.”
Source: The Star Newspaper