Profiles

Tirop: Jolly youngster with a majestic running style

AgnesTirop

Agnes Tirop. PHOTO | POOL

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Summary

  • Tirop, a twice world 10,000m bronze medallist, won the 10 km event with a time of 30 minutes and one second, finishing ahead of Sheila Chepkirui and shaving 28 seconds off the record previously set by Morocco’s Asmae Leghzaoui 19 years ago.
  • Exactly a month after this feat, Tirop was unfortunately found dead in her home, west of Iten — marking a tragic end to a promising athletics career for the 25-year-old who started running as a student at Kosirai High School in Uasin Gishu.

On September 11, 2021, a world record tumbled on when Kenya’s Agnes Tirop surged to victory in the 10km race at an event in Herzogenaurach, Germany.

Tirop, a twice world 10,000m bronze medallist, won the 10 km event with a time of 30 minutes and one second, finishing ahead of Sheila Chepkirui and shaving 28 seconds off the record previously set by Morocco’s Asmae Leghzaoui 19 years ago.

“I’m so happy to have broken the world record,” said Tirop after winning the race.

“I felt the pace was good and Sheila assisted me a lot. The course was very good too.”

Exactly a month after this feat, Tirop was unfortunately found dead in her home, west of Iten — marking a tragic end to a promising athletics career for the 25-year-old who started running as a student at Kosirai High School in Uasin Gishu.

Tirop’s body had a stab wound in the abdomen with security agencies suspecting homicide.

The deceased athlete was always jolly and missed no chance to urge on fellow upcoming sportspersons.

She has a majestic running style on the tracks and always keeps calm even when under pressure from other competitors.

Born in Uasin Gishu County, Tirop first came to prominence in 2012 when, aged 16, she notched up a series of podium finishes in national-level cross-country races.

Those performances earned her a place on Kenya’s team for the African Cross Country Championships in Cape Town where she secured the silver medal, finishing behind Faith Kipyegon. Later that year, Tirop secured another podium finish at a major event, taking bronze over 5000m at the World U20 Championships in Barcelona.

Tirop turned the tables on Kipyegon at the start of 2013, securing a rare victory over her compatriot at the Kenya Cross Country meeting in Kericho.

The finish was a lot closer at the World Cross Country Championships two months later, where Kipyegon finished a whisker ahead of Tirop to take gold. Outdoors that year, Tirop improved her PBs across all track distances and raced on the senior international circuit, performing well in Diamond League races.

Tirop finally emerged from Kipyegon’s shadow in the 2014 season, winning the Kenyan cross country junior title and then dominating the junior race at the 2014 African Cross Country Championships.

She capped her Under-20 career in 2014 with victory at the African Cross Country Championships in March and then earned another 5000m bronze medal at the World Under-20 Championships in Oregon.

Tirop joined the senior ranks in 2015, though few could have predicted how soon she’d make an impression on the global distance-running scene. She broke into the senior athletics ranks in the 2015 season and immediately won the Eldoret Discovery Cross Country in Kenya. She was then enrolled in the Kenya senior national championship race where she finished second to Kipyegon, bagging a slot in the national team despite her young age.

She claimed a surprise triumph at the World Cross Country Championships in Guiyang, becoming the second-youngest winner of the senior women’s title in the history of the event.

She continued to compete across a range of distances and on various surfaces but shifted her focus to 10,000m in 2017. After winning the Kenyan trial race at that distance, she took bronze at the World Championships in London in a PB of 31:03.50.

Tirop replicated that feat in 2019, taking another World Championships bronze over 10,000m in a PB performance, this time clocking 30:25.20. Earlier in the year, she had set PBs of 14:20.68 for 5000m and 8:27.51 for 3000m.

She raced sparingly in 2020 but reduced her 3000m PB to 8:22.92 at the Wanda Diamond League meeting in Doha. 2021 was another lean racing year for Tirop, but she focused on quality rather than quantity; she finished third at Kenya’s Olympic Trials, placed fourth at the Olympic Games over 5000m and then turned to the roads with a 10km world record of 30:01 in Herzogenaurach.

Tirop’s star looked bright based on these achievements at a tender age.

“Kenya has lost a jewel,” Athletics Kenya said in a statement. “She was one of the fastest-rising athletics giants on the international stage thanks to her eye-catching performances on the track.”