•Back at the 2017 World Under-18, Mulei won the national schools championships then went for the national trials making the qualification standards of 12:60m in the long jump.
•Growing up in a rural village, there was no one to motivate or give Mulei support.
Gloria Mulei could be the next big thing in athletics field events if her current performance is anything to go by.
We could as well be looking at the next Julius Yego, former world javelin champion and Olympic silver medallist but this time in the triple jump.
Mulei, the national triple jump record-holder, has cut her niche in the field events, competing in triple and long jumps following her all-conquering victories in high school.
The athlete is hoping to break the African and world records in her specialities. The former Kwanthanze Girls student, 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 field events while in Standard Five at Mutulu Primary School after noticing an opportunity, with the country not having representatives in the long and triple jump at both international and continental championships. Just like Julius Yego, Mulei’s journey to stardom has been shaped by YouTube as the country lack coaches for her two events.
“Soon you may call me ‘You Tube Mulei’ because I sharpen my skills through You Tube,” said Mulei.
“My target is to break the African or world record. The journey has not been easy. In the beginning, my friends used to demoralise me that field events are not marketable especially in Kenya where people value track events. But I was determined to prove them wrong knowing that one day, my great moment in the sport will come and if IAAF will schedule qualifiers for field events, I would make it,” said Mulei.
Growing up in a rural village, there was no one to motivate or give Mulei support. Neither was there someone to emulate or coach to train and nurture her talent.
“Most times, I used to see how individuals jump on television and wanted to try, master and perfect it by myself. From Class 5-to-date, I have been training and perfecting the skills by myself because I don’t have a coach,” explained Mulei. With the use of internet, she has been slowly perfecting her skills through YouTube, the same way Yego, the former world javelin champion learnt his throwing sport.
“Mostly, I watch much You Tube to perfect my steps in the jumps. After watching, I go to the ground to train for perfection. It is through You Tube that I do what I do best, without a coach. And remember this, one day if I will break the African or world record, you will call me ‘YouTube Mulei’,” insisted Mulei amid laughter.
However, she does not always have bundles which are a necessity to access the internet. This has hindered her ability to stay long enough online to understand the skills.
Most times she has to download a clip, watch it slowly to master them and every morning, she will have had enough views to put them into practice.
Her breakthrough came during the 2017 World Under-18 Championships when the unknown athlete from Mutulu wore the national colours for the first time ever.
She jumped 12.48m to finish eighth at the historic championships. The results motivated her to take the sport even more seriously. Her performances thereafter earned her a place in the 2018 World Under-20 championships in Tampere, Finland while still in school and with little training time.
“That was the most challenging moment for me because some teachers were hard on me to concentrate in class, but the little time I got especially during weekends, I trained. My efforts enabled me to cover 12.97m and break the national record of 12.91m at the World Under 20 then held by Caroline Kola. With this jump, I was able to finish in the sixth position. The same year, I jumped a national record of 13.05m,” said Mulei.
Back in 2017 World Under-18, Mulei won the national schools championships then went for the national trials making the qualification standards of 12.60m in the long jump.
In 2019 during the All Africa Games in Morocco, she stretched her own record to 13.05. It was a similar jump to the one at the national championships and she was officially handed the record after finishing in the fifth position. According to her, the poor results in field events are largely due to poor coaching or wrong training programme.
“There are so many challenges in this sport. There is no coach in Kenya to train the jumpers. Once you enter Team Kenya, you are basically on your own because you have to operate under sprints. These coaches give you a programme that suits track yet my programme as a jumper is totally different.
For example, 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 to join the national 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. I am given a track coach who provides 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 I am being given a totally different training programme that suits track athletes, not field. They should stop blaming me for poor results because they are the problem,” asserted Mulei.
While in camp, she is forced to adopt a different training regime that she is not accustomed to. She complains that if she were to decide to stick to her own programme, she will be branded a rebel 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 even when they don’t make sense at all. If 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,” mourned Mulei.
The youngster was eyeing Olympic Games and World Under 20 slots but the two world events have been postponed due to the 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 do much better with a specialised coach and even break the African record,” she vowed.