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From Kenya to New Orleans: Rio Olympian finds home at Tulane

Clara Harrington, Sports Editor

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Many Tulane students spend their summers interning, traveling and hanging out with friends. Freshman Raymond Kibet spent his summer chasing gold.

Kibet represented Kenya in the Olympic Games in Rio de Janerio by competing in the 400-meter dash.

At the age of 20, Kibet has an esteemed athletic career. In 2014, he attended the International Association of Athletics Federations Junior World Championships in Eugene, Oregon. As part of the men’s 4×400 meter team, Kibet contributed to Kenya’s gold medal in the finals for the 2015 African Games in Brazzaville, Congo. He then qualified for the Kenyan national team by placing second in its national championship last summer, which qualified him for the Olympics.

“The Macaraña Stadium, that’s where I felt the Olympic spirit,” Kibet said. “The moment I stepped onto the track, I knew legends had stepped on it, too. “

In July, just before the Olympic Games began, Tulane track and field head coach Eric Peterson recruited Kibet to run for the team. Peterson noted that Kibet’s experience competing at such a high level helped him grow, making him a great asset to Tulane’s team.

“One of the things that I find interesting about him is his level of maturity and the life experiences that he has accumulated in a short period of time,” Peterson said. “…He’s an elite athlete, but he’s very serious about being successful.”

Being a part of the Olympics over the summer was a great personal athletic accomplishment, but Kibet also views his experience in Rio as an honor because he was able to represent Kenya on the world stage.

“The Olympics opened up a new chapter in my life as an athlete because I happened to compete against the world’s best,” Kibet said. “It set my standard at a high level which I have to do a lot of work to maintain.”

Kibet’s athletic journey required huge adjustments — he went from living in Kenya, to running in Rio and now to attending college in New Orleans, in less than a year.

Kibet arrived at Tulane several weeks into the semester, so he has been occupied with catching up on schoolwork and working with his new team. As Kibet awaits the spring season, he is using this time in the fall to get acclimated to his new environment.

“Switching from Kenya to the United States has been a bit hard for me, but for the past two weeks I’ve been adjusting quite well,” Kibet said. “This week I think I am doing good, because I’ve made it to classes and all trainings.”

For the spring season, Kibet plans to compete in the 4×400 as well as the 400. In addition, he may start running in the 200-meter dash, a new event for him.

Kibet’s personal best for the 400 is 45.39 seconds, a feat he accomplished in 2015. Among Kibet’s personal goals for the upcoming season are improving his block technique to ensure a faster first 100 meters of the race, and improving his personal best time.

This summer was Kibet’s first time attending the Olympics, but he hopes that it will not be his last. As he uses the next four years to train with Peterson and the other runners on the Tulane track team, he hopes to gain the experience and skill it takes to reach the next level.

“Hopefully by the next time, the next Olympics in Tokyo, maybe I might be a finalist or medalist,” Kibet said.

Peterson notes that Kibet is incredibly dedicated both on and off the track, as an athlete and as a student. He looks forward to seeing what Kibet will bring to the Tulane community in the years to come.

“He’s an elite athlete, but he’s very serious about being successful,” Peterson said. “I’m excited about what he’s going to be able to do here, both from an academic standpoint and his obvious athletic ability, which is very elite.”

Kibet will spend his time at Tulane studying chemical engineering, until he gets the chance to return to the Olympics stage.

“The crowd was energetic and supported me,” Kibet said. “I recall some of them telling me that I’ll make it to the top one day. On that track I was running physically, but the crowd was running spiritually. That was the Olympic spirit.”

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Student newspaper serving Tulane University, Uptown New Orleans
From Kenya to New Orleans: Rio Olympian finds home at Tulane