Tokyo bound! Paul Chelimo earns spot in Olympics

Posted on June 28, 2021

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Four years ago, alumnus Paul Chelimo barely placed onto the U.S. Olympic team. He went on to win the Olympic Silver Medal.

This summer, he earned his way with a dominant first place finish.

At the June 27 U.S. qualifying race in Oregon, he outpaced all competitors to book his ticket to the Summer Olympics in Tokyo. The Olympics open July 23. The first round of the men’s 5,000 meter event will be held Aug. 3, with the final on Aug. 6, the News and Record reports.

Chelimo in archival photo, 2017 post-Olympics visit to UNCG campus.

Chelimo earned his degree in public health in 2014. He is the first Spartan to be an Olympian. He received the inaugural Spirt of the Spartan Award in fall 2017, as well as the UNCG Young Alumni Award.

A native of Kenya, he earned a national championship at Shorter College, before transferring to UNC Greensboro for the remainder of his college career.

He was first featured in UNCG Magazine as one of four Spartan cross-country runners from East Africa – Paul Katam, Paul Chelimo, Michael Koesch, and Abraham Kemboi (left to right in photo) – all planning to major in health-related fields.

University Communications archival photo, Jan. 30, 2012. City of Greensboro’s Hamilton Lakes trail.

Chelimo’s storied career has been well-documented here at UNCG ever since.

Under the leadership of Coach Linh Nguyen, Chelimo was the national runner-up twice in the 5,000 meter race at the NCAA Outdoor Track and Field Championships. He was also a three-time Southern Conference Cross Country Champion and a six-time All-America recipient. He was a recipient of the Irwin Belk Athletic Scholarship and the Aaron Bobb Scholarship and graduated with a 3.6 grade point average.

After his UNCG career, he entered the U.S. Army’s World Class Athlete Program, with focus as a water treatment specialist. In Kenya, he had seen the importance of clean, accessible water. He became a U.S. citizen.

At last weekend’s race, the temperature was 88 degrees Fahrenheit in the shade. Chelimo was near the front for the entire race, sometimes noticeably flicking sweat from his face. After the race, he told the NBC interviewer the same racing philosophy he said on Twitter:

“Go hard or suffer for the rest of your life!”

See 2017 video, as Chelimo returned to campus after winning the Olympic Silver Medal.

See fall 2017 video, as Chelimo receives UNCG Alumni of Distinction – Young Alumni Award.

See 2017 UNCG Magazine, featuring Paul Chelimo on pp. 30-32.

By Mike Harris, University Communications/Advancement
2017 photography by Martin W. Kane, University Communications; 2012 photography from University Communications archives.

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