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Mary Moraa, the Dancing Queen, eyes a medal at the Paris Olympics

Mary Moraa, of Kenya, celebrates after winning the gold medal in the Women's 800-meters final during the World Athletics Championships in Budapest, Hungary, on 27, 2023.   -  
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Denes Erdos/Copyright 2023 The AP. All rights reserved


800 metres World Champion Mary Moraa is part of an emerging crop of Kenyan short-distance runners that are taking the athletics scene by storm.

Dubbed ‘The Dancing Queen’ of athletics, owing to her intricate rhythmic moves every time she crosses the finish line first, the 24-year-old fell in love with the sport at an early age.

"I started running when I was in Primary School, when I was young in grade 4, 5, 6. But there was nobody to guide me on how to compete in major events. When I reached High School, that is when I started running (professionally) because I was under somebody who understood sports."

Moraa is thankful to the likes of two-time silver medallist Hellen Obiri and her schoolteachers who believed in her and exposed her to the world of professional athletics.

She says Obiri bought her the first shoes she ever ran with professionally and is determined to never let that faith down.

She is also spurred on by the memories of her late parents and grandparents who provided for her and her 3 siblings.

"Our parents passed away when I was two-year-old, so we were living with my grandfather and my grandmother, and they too passed away. Both of them. It was hard for me and my siblings, but we got somebody who took us in, looked after us, provided and mentored us."

Moraa who is part of the 83 Kenyan athletes competing in the Paris Olympics is encouraged by the hope to make a better life for other young girls in her community. Her triumph at the world championships last AUgust was a surprise she says.

"In the World Championship I can say it was a surprise to me, because I had said I will appreciate any medal that comes my way. But I ended up getting gold and it was a big achievement for me and my country."

During the delayed Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games, Moraa was eliminated in the semi-finals.

Moraa’s second place finish in the national trials secured her place as part of the 83 athletes featuring in the Paris showpiece event for Kenya, participating in Athletics, Fencing, Judo, Men’s Rugby Sevens, Women’s Volleyball and Swimming.

For her next pariticpation at the Olympics, she is aiming for a medal: "This year I am also focusing on getting a medal, but I am not sure which medal."

Kenya is proud to hold the best all-time Olympic medal haul on the continent.

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