Kenyan-Born Athletes Who Switched Nationalities And Conquered The World

In the world of international athletics, Kenya has long been synonymous with long-distance running excellence.

The East African nation has produced some of the world’s greatest long-distance runners, from the legendary Kipchoge Keino to contemporary stars like Eliud Kipchoge.

However, in recent years, a fascinating trend has emerged within the athletics world – Kenyan-born stars who have chosen to switch nationalities and represent other countries are dominating the international stage.

In this article WoK will explore some of these remarkable athletes who have made headlines with their allegiance switches.

Winfred Mutile Yavi (Bahrain)

Winfred Mutile Yavi, born in Makueni County, Kenya, is a shining example of an athlete who switched nationalities and soared to international stardom.

Yavi made headlines when she secured gold in the women’s 3000m steeplechase at the 19th World Athletics Championships while representing Bahrain.

Her victory left seasoned Kenyan steeplechasers like Beatrice Chepkoech and Faith Cherotich in her wake.

Yavi’s journey began when she shifted her allegiance to Bahrain at just 15 years old, seeking better racing opportunities.

Since then, she has become a force to be reckoned with on the global stage, with an impressive record in the 3000m steeplechase and other middle-distance events.

Joan Chelimo (Romania)

Joan Chelimo, hailing from Kenya’s famous running town of Iten, became a proud representative of Romania in 2021.

Before switching allegiances, Chelimo had already earned acclaim for her remarkable performance in road races, including victories in the Bilbao 15km, Valencia 10km, and Boston Half Marathon.

Her decision to represent Romania marked a new chapter in her career, and she aims to fly the Romanian flag at the 2024 Paris Olympic Games.

Chelimo’s gratitude for Romania’s support and the opportunities it has offered her is evident in her social media posts, where she expresses her love and respect for her adopted country.

“Without Romania’s support, I wouldn’t be where I am today as a professional athlete. My progress and recent performances are largely due to Romania, which has offered me a coach, a new “family”, a unique club – Dinamo and optimal training conditions. I have enormous respect for Romania and a lot of gratitude for everything it offers me. Happy birthday, Romania,” Chelimo said as she celebrated her adopted country during its independence day on December 1, 2022.

Norah Cheruto (Kazakhstan)

Norah Cheruto, another Kenyan-born athlete, made waves in the world of athletics after switching allegiances to represent Kazakhstan.

She stormed to victory in the women’s 3000m steeplechase at the 2022 World Championships in Oregon, making her mark as one of the world’s top steeplechasers.

Paul Chelimo and Sally Kipyego (USA)

Paul Chelimo and Sally Kipyego are among a growing number of Kenyan-born athletes who have opted to compete for the United States.

Chelimo, a silver medalist in the 5000m at the Olympics, has been a consistent presence in international competitions.

Similarly, Kipyego has achieved success in various international events, showcasing the impact of Kenyan talent on the American athletics scene.

Stephen Cherono (Qatar)

Formerly known as Stephen Cherono, Saif Saaeed Shaheen is a Kenyan-born athlete who represented Qatar from 2003.

Cherono was a record holder in the 3000m steeplechase and played a significant role in Qatar’s athletics success during his career.

His decision to represent Qatar was groundbreaking and paved the way for other Kenyan athletes to consider similar opportunities on the international stage.