enyan-born marathoner Lonah Chemtai is expected to compete for Israel at the Olympics Games in Rio De Janeiro, Brazil next month after gaining a last minute approval.
“I am very proud [to represent Israel] and I hope to achieve a new personal best time,” Chemtai told Reuters.
Chemtai, who grew up a rural village in western Kenya, first came to Israel in 2009 to care of the children of her country’s ambassador to Israel. The 27-year-old runner recently gained Israeli citizenship after marrying her coach, Dan Salpeter, in Kenya earlier this year. Her inclusion on the Olympic team was only granted days before the deadline for her eligibility.
Despite achieving a personal best time of two hours and 40 minutes, Chemtai is not expected to compete for a medal in Rio, where top female runners generally average times closer to two hours and 20 minutes.
“A personal best in Rio very much depends on the conditions, which can change from day to day, so it’s hard to know. … But Lonah still has tremendous potential to improve greatly over the next 10 years and even beyond,” Salpeter said.
Israel is expected to send at least 47 athletes to the Rio Olympics, making it the largest-ever delegation for the Jewish state.