Kenya is famed for its record-breaking crop of athletes. Be it the Olympics, World Championships, Common Wealth Games, or the World Junior Championships, you will always find Kenyan athletes in these lineups.
While most of them hail from the Rift Valley region, the Nyanza region has also produced some big names in the sport.
WoK looks at the top 10 female athletes from Kisii County:
Hellen Onsando Obiri is one of the best middle- and long-distance runners in the world.
The 33-year-old is a two-time Olympic 5000-meter silver medalist from the 2016 Rio and 2020 Tokyo Olympics, where she also placed fourth over the 10,000 meters.
She is a two-time world champion after winning the 5000 m in 2017 and again in 2019, when she set a new championship record. She won the 3000-meter race at the 2012 World Indoor Championships, claimed silver in 2014, and placed fourth in 2018. She is also the 2019 World Cross Country champion.
Obiri hails from Boginchoncho village in Kisii County. She is married to fellow athlete Tom Nyaundi. The couple have a daughter, Tania Blessing Macheche.
Mary Moraa, the pride of the Omogusii community, was born on 15 June 2000. She is currently the best middle-distance runner in the world, specializing in the 800-meter category. She is the 2023 World Championships gold medalist in the event.
In 2022, Moraa won the 800 meters at the World Championships in Oregon, becoming the first Kenyan woman to win the event since Pamela Jelimo in 2008. She also won the 800 meters at the 2022 Commonwealth Games.
Moraa, an orphan, hails from Obwari village in Kisii. She attended Nyankononi Primary School and later Ibacho High School. She is married to Arap Chemereng Gege.
Isabella Bosibori Ochichi is a long-distance runner who competed in the 5000 meters. She won the silver medal at the 2004 Summer Olympics in Athens, Greece, finishing in a time of 14:48.19, about 2.5 seconds behind the winner, Meseret Defar of Ethiopia.
Ochichi was born in Kisii County in 1979. In 1997, aged 17, she competed in France for her first overseas races.
She competed at the IAAF World Cross Country Championships between 2002 and 2006, the best result being short-race bronze medals in 2002 and 2005. In March 2006 she won the same distance at the Commonwealth Games.
Although at the peak of her career, Ochichi stopped running professionally in 2006. She returned to competition seven years later in 2013. She has since competed in several marathons, including the London Marathon and the Chicago Marathon.
Ochichi is married to fellow athlete David Maina.
Grace Kwamboka Momanyi is a long-distance runner who hails from the Kisii community.
Born in 1983, she began her running career in 2000, winning the 10K race at the Ottawa Marathon. She repeated this victory in 2005, setting a course record in her second win.
In 2006, she moved to Japan to represent the local Dauhatsu athletics team but was mostly out of action due to injuries. She returned to Kenya in 2007 and won a couple of local races including the Kenyan National Cross-Country Championship in 2008.
The versatile runner is a two-time winner of the Ottawa Marathon, and she has also won races at the 5000-meter, 10,000-meter, and half-marathon distances. She is married and lives in Kisii with her husband Timothy, who is also her coach.
Winfridah is a half marathoner who competes internationally for Kenya.
In 2022, she clocked third place in the women’s category of the Guadalajara Half Marathon. The 26-year-old broke the record at the Madrid half marathon in Spain in 2022, beating favorites like Ethiopian Almaz Ayana and Sharon Kemboi.
In 2021, she bagged the title at the 3rd edition of the 10km Nyamira North Road Race held in Esanige Stadium, Nyamira County.
Teresa is one of Kisii’s high-profile athletes. She is married to Dickson Simba, a fellow athlete, and the couple lives in Italy. She participated in the Nyamira Great Run Series in 2021, clocking second with 36:50.31.
In 2022, Teresa Omosa grabbed the senior women’s title in the same category, stopping the clock at 33:56.94. She made her marathon debut in Vienna, Austria in April 2022.
Nyabochoa is a name to reckon with when it comes to cross-country races.
In 2017, she won the senior women’s 10km races during the third edition of the Discovery Cross Country at Kisii Golf Course. She beat experienced runners like Beatrice Begi and Nancy Kerage.
Lorna, who trains in Keroka, rose to prominence in 2007 by winning the six-kilometer race at the Nyakongo open cross-country championships, beating 150 contestants. The 12-year-old ran barefoot, clocking 20 minutes, 4.55 seconds.
Nancy Kerage is a seasoned marathoner who competes for the Nyamira North Athletics Club. She was born on January 1, 2000.
In 2019, she was among 300 of Kisii’s best athletes who graced the Gusii Athletics Legends Cross Country event held at Kebirichi Primary School.
Her personal bests are 11.88 seconds for the 100 meters and 24.28 seconds for the 200 meters. She has won several local races, including the 100 meters at the Nyamira North District Championships in 2022.
Damaris Areba Kemunto is a rising star in the world of long-distance running. Areba, who hails from Nyamira, was born in 1995 and began competing in track and field at a young age.
She made her international debut in 2019, competing in the 1500 meters at the World Athletics Championships in Doha. She finished in 12th place in the final.
In 2020, Kemunto won the 1500 meters at the Kenyan Athletics Championships. She was subsequently selected to represent Kenya at the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo. She finished in fifth place in the final, setting a new personal best time of 3:59.83.
She is known for her strong finishing kick and her ability to compete at a high level over a variety of distances.
Irene Mogaka Kemunto
One of the most prolific long-distance runners in Kenya and the pride of the Gusii community is Irene Kemunto.
Born on 10th January 1985, she debuted her international athletic career in Mumbai in 2007, coming fifth. The same year, she participated in the Rock N’ Roll Las Vegas marathon, emerging second.
At her home in Kisii, she proudly displays a cabinet containing numerous trophies and medals she has amassed throughout her career.
In 2022, news of her appealing to the government for support surfaced after she was diagnosed with chest pains. Kemunto has since taken a break from her running career.