A star is born

Running has always been a lifeline for Irene Kelesitse, 16, and where her hopes for a better future for her family and eternity in record books lie.

“There is nobody in my home who can take care of the family,” she explains.

“We only have our grandparents who are old and frail and depend on handouts and destitute package.” Irene was taken in by her poor grandparents and lives in a small tent that she shares with eight other family members. Her grandmother, Mmankana Baitere, describes the child as her last hope in this life. Fortunately for Irene, she discovered running.

Besides her love for the track she has to run out of necessity.  The teenager says her famed strength comes from carrying heavy loads of water a long distance from home. Her school Mmanaana Junior Secondary is at least 11 km away from her home in Molomoojang near Moshupa. She has to wake up at four every morning and run to and from school each day in order to continue with her education.

Almost all the other children in her homestead have dropped out of school. “That’s why I need to be successful, I am the only hope my family has,” she stresses as a matter of fact. Her teacher and mentor Benjamin Baruti speaks highly of the great potential Irene has.“Technique and footwork are acquired skills, but you need courage. That is what Irene has,” says Baruti. 

“I have coached children both from wealthy families and poor families. The wealthy families provide everything, but those children take that for granted. The children of the poor work harder because they have to earn everything themselves.”

Baruti points to Irene’s courage as her strength, an attribute he is hoping to use in her training to help make her a champion. “As long as she has heart, she will go a long way.” The hard work has started to pay off as Irene hoisted the nation’s flag high and bagged a gold medal last year by coming tops in the 800m-race at the IFS Athletic cup champion in the Czech Republic.

She says the next chapter in the story of her life involves beating her role model Amantle Montsho’s records and being the country’s next shining star.