Italian manager Guiseppe Giambrone says convincing Ugandan long-distance Juliet Chekwel to completely switch from track to marathon was difficult.
“I have been telling her for two years to go to marathon where she would have had more talent but she was afraid of the long distance,” said Giambrone after Chekwel debuted over the 42km distance with victory at the Zurich Marathon in Seville, Spain on Sunday.
“Then slowly, I convinced her to do the half marathon and then after the medal at the Commonwealth Half-Marathon (in Cardiff), she trusted and started believing what I was saying to her.”
Last year, Chekwel may have been let down by a 20th-place finish in the 10000m at the Doha World Championships in Qatar.
However, she had won the Padova Half-Marathon in Italy and also took second place at the Bucharest Half-Marathon in Romania earlier in the year.
And on Sunday, Chekwel started marathon in style with a winning a time of two hours, 23 minutes and 13 seconds to beat Ethiopian duo of Gada Bontu and Sifan Melaku.
“It is very important because in addition to qualifying for the Olympics, it gives her confidence in the marathon,” said Giambrone of Tuscany Camp. Chekwel, who turns 30 on May 25, was well under the Tokyo Olympics qualification standard time of 2:29:30 by six minutes and 17 seconds in the window from January 1, 2019 to May 31, 2020.
More importantly, Chekwel broke the national record (NR) by nine minutes and 49 seconds and she now holds two NR including that of the 10000m.
The women’s marathon NR has fallen four times in the past nine years, exchanging hands from Jane Suuto to Adero Nyakisi and previously Linet Chebet who posted 2:32:52 at the Hamburg Marathon in Germany last April.
“Last year, we worked hard to prepare the body at a greater distance and we kept a good job on strength. She will only do some preparatory races (for Tokyo) but not another marathon,” he added.
It means that 16 Ugandan runners have now qualified for the Tokyo Olympics so far but seven males are still in the quest for the three available marathon tickets.