Strength of a woman: How losing both parents at two years powered new athletics 800m queen Mary Moraa to stardom

Strength of a woman: How losing both parents at two years powered new athletics 800m queen Mary Moraa to stardom


The newly crowned 800m world champion, who was left orphaned at two years old, shared her gruelling battle to survive and how adversity helped shape her running career and changed her life and those of her siblings.

The fast rising 800m star wants to keep her mother’s memory alive via escalating rounds of success on the track and away from the track.

Imagine growing up with no childhood memory of your mum or even a photograph that proves her existence, instead creating memories based on what other people tell you. And then using that as a springboard to one of the world’s best runners.

Moraa discovered through friends and relatives that her mother, who died when she was only two, was a runner. It was this discovery that led her to pursue a career in athletics and success when she high school student in Kisii.

The Commonwealth Games women’s 800m champion shared her thoughts about her upbringing and how she wants to keep the memory of her mum alive, and she did just that by winning her first 800m world title at the Budapest 23 World Athletics Championships that ended on August 27. She posted a personal best time of 1:56.03 after eclipsing a star-studded field that included Olympic champion and Canada’s Athing Mu.

“As I am preparing and racing at such big events, I think about a lot of things…my family, my upbringing, which wasn’t easy,” said the second-fastest woman over 800m this season. “But I always appreciate the fact that despite the odds and the tough experiences, I managed to overcome them and I am out here representing my country.”

The Kenyan has been having a magnificent season and has not lost any of her 800m races. She kept her streak alive defeating Olympic champion Athing Mu who beat her to the gold medal in Oregon last year.

“Honestly, I am feeling the pressure, which is quite normal ahead of such big races,” she said before the final in Budapest. “This season, I have competed with lots of people, but I haven’t raced against Athing Mu…so I don’t know what to expect.”

Moraa was born on June 15, 2000, in Kisii in western Kenya. Before she won gold medal in the 800 metres at 2023 World Athletics Championships in Budapest, few athletics fans gave her the slightest chance of upstaging Olympic champion Athing Mu.

The gold was an upgrade on the bronze medal she won in the same event at the 2022 World Athletics Championships in Eugene, Oregon, USA. From Oregon, she won a gold medal in the 800m at the 2022 Commonwealth Games held in Birmingham, England.

Moraa is the current Kenyan record holder in the 400m with a time of 50.44 seconds. She is coached by Alex Sang.

The world champions has become a world-class athlete after overcoming the odds of being orphaned at a tender age. She was raised by her grandparents in Kisii, western Kenya, in very difficult circumstances. She persevered and her turning point in life arrived when she was granted an education scholarship for athletics.

She was running the 400m distance 2021 when she made her international debut at the World Under-18 Championships held in Nairobi and won a silver medal in the event with a personal best time of 53.31 seconds. The following year, she placed fifth over the same distance at the World U20 Championships in Tampere, Finland, clocking a new personal best of 52.85 seconds in the heats.

In 2019, she won the African U20 title and Kenyan senior title in the 400m and placed fourth at the African Games held in Rabat, Morocco. She reached the semi-finals in her individual event at the Doha World Championships that year with a season’s best of 51.75 seconds.

Under the advice of her manager, the young athlete transitioned to 800m in 2020 and represented Kenya at the delayed 2020 Tokyo Olympics held in 2021 where she was eliminated in the semi-finals with a time of 2:00.47 13. In July 2022, Moraa won a bronze medal in the 800m at the World Championships held in Eugene, Oregon with a personal best of 1:56.71 behind Athing Mu (1:56.30) and Keely Hodgkinson (1:56.38).

The following month, she won gold in the event at the Birmingham Commonwealth Games after storming through to beat Hodgkinson in the final. In September of that year, Moraa became Diamond League champion after winning final in Zürich.

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