OVER THE MOON

Cherotich seeks to leave a mark on Olympic debut in Paris

Cherotich made history as the first Kenyan woman to qualify for the Olympics in Judo after ranking 74th with 384 points

In Summary

• Under the guidance of Coach David Busolo and a Japanese trainer provided by the International Judo Federation, she aims to hone her skills before Paris.

• The Kenya Defence Forces (KDF) Sergeant acknowledges the fierce competition she'll face in Paris, particularly from the Japanese contingent.

Zeddy Cherotich during training
Zeddy Cherotich during training
Image: HANDOUT

Kenya's sole judoka representative at the Paris Olympic Games, Zeddy Cherotich, is aiming for a flawless victory in her first bout of the women's Under 78 kg category.

Cherotich made history as the first Kenyan woman to qualify for the Olympics in Judo after ranking 74th with 384 points.

Her performance was also within the continental quota of 12 in the women’s event.

The Kenya Defence Forces (KDF) sergeant is determined to secure a win in her first match, which she believes will set a solid foundation for the competition.

 “I hope to get to Paris in good health. My target is to get a win in my first match. Getting that win will be key to my build-up on the global stage,” Cherotich said.

Her journey to qualify for the Olympics began in September at the African Senior Championships, where she finished seventh with 182 points.

 She later took part in this year’s edition of the competition in Cairo, Egypt, in April earning identical results of 182 points and a seventh-place finish.

Her final qualification competition was on May 19 at the Abu Dhabi World Championship, where she earned 20 points.

The 34-year-old acknowledges the fierce competition she'll face in Paris, particularly from the Japanese contingent.

“This is my first appearance on such a stage. There are a lot of top experienced Judokas like Japan. I expect competition to be very strong,” she noted.

Japan’s Shori Hamada clinched the half-weight crown at the delayed Tokyo 2020 Olympics with Madeleine Malonga of France claiming silver.

Germany’s Anna-Maria Wagner and Brazil’s Mayra Aguiar tied for bronze.

She highlighted the pressure of making her maiden appearance at the global extravaganza.

 “There is some pressure that comes with representing the country at the Olympics more so because this is a sport that Kenya does not do well in at the Olympics,” she highlighted. No Kenyan judoka has made it past the round of 32 at the Olympics.

The last Kenyan, Kiplagat Sang, was eliminated in the round of 32 in the -90kg category after losing to Hungarian Krisztian Toth.

Cherotich, a former javelin thrower,  made the switch to judo in 2022. 

“I was an athlete in the javelin throw for over 10 years. I never got a chance to represent the country internationally and decided to switch to judo,” she noted.

 Cherotich won two national championships in 2014 (44.65m) and 2011 (47.93m) as well as the KDF title in 2011 (44.84m).

She won bronze at the KDF championships in 2019 (42.17m) and last year at the Ulinzi Sports Complex (41.64m).

The second last born in a family of six highlighted the support from her family as key to her success in judo.

“Making the switch to judo has been one of the best moves of my life. My family has supported me so much,” she noted.

Making history as the first Kenyan female judoka for the Olympics is a dream come true for her.

“I got the call two weeks ago informing me I had made the Olympics. Honestly, I could not believe my ears. I still think I am dreaming up to now,” she stated.

Under the guidance of Coach David Busolo and a Japanese trainer provided by the International Judo Federation, she aims to hone her skills before Paris.

“I want to improve my speed and endurance before Paris. With my coach and trainer, we are also working on tactics, especially how to attack my opponents,” she noted.

Cherotich leaves for Kenya’s camp in Miramas, France, on Wednesday to ramp up preparations, with the round of 64 in the women’s -78kg category set to kick off on August 1.