Cheruiyot, Obiri reveal how they beat Ayana in 5000m
Vivian Cheruiyot could not believe she could beat Ethiopian world champion, Almaz Ayana, in the women 5000m final at Rio 2016 Olympics until a motivational conversation at the call room with teammate Helen Obiri made the impossible possible.
Having blasted to the world record in the women 10000m a week earlier, everyone assumed Ayana, 25, would complete her double at a canter until Cheruiyot, 32, and Obiri reeled the 10000m Olympics champion in with 600m to go before running away with gold and silver.
Pushed on by the fact that, despite her many career accomplishments, Cheruiyot was still missing an Olympic gold medal and the ‘Pocket Rocket’ produced one of the biggest shocks of an Olympic athletics programme which had already seen a plethora of upsets.
It was the best possible response after being beaten to the gold in the longer distance by a world record having run her lifetime best of 29:32.53, the third fastest women 10000m of all time.
“I couldn’t believe that I was going to defeat Almaz. When we were going in to the call room, I knew she was going to win. Helen told me we should not think she is going to win it and we shall win this. We discussed as a group because we knew her strategy. She starts fast and fades as she goes towards the end,” the thrilled Cheruiyot who remains the most decorated Kenyan female athlete of all time said.
“We decided if she does 66 seconds per lap we do 68, so that we remain close to her and not burn out. We worked together and I could see she was not pushing as she did in the 1,000 meters race so Helen decided to chase, then later I decided to go that’s when I realized we were closing the gap and I decided if I pass her, I wouldn’t stop so that if she chased she would burn out,” she added.
“After the bell that’s when I realized am going to win it, and Helen chased, it felt so nice with 100 meters to go I was all alone, following the 2004, 2008 and 2012 Olympics I thought all is gone but God had a plan for me,” the mother of one told of getting the golden monkey off her back.
After losing in the 10000m final, Cheruiyot could not hide her joy of winning the only medal she has been missing in her career.
“The win wipes all my tears, last week during the 10000m I thought I have lost, although it was my personal best. Since I started my career this was the hardest I have been training, I have been doing so good, attaining my personal best in training.
“I asked myself what is Ayana doing and I’m not doing. I thought she had special blood but I did to my best to win this,” she recited after being rewarded with victory in a new Olympics record of 14:26.17.
Equally euphoric was Obiri, the 2012 women 3000m World Indoor champion who celebrated her silver achieved in a personal best of 14:29.77 as if she had won the gold having played the role of laying the platform for Cheruiyot’s greatest victory and Kenya’s fifth gold of Rio 2016.
“I talked with Vivian we decided to do all our best in fact when she opened up a huge gap we never gave up we decided to close that gap. Before 700 meters that is when we knew we can beat her and I told Vivian to go,” the Moscow 2013 Worlds women 1500 bronze winner said.
It was fitting reward for Obiri who stepped up the distance this season after returning to action from attending to maternal duties. Cheruiyot also took leave to deliver son Allan Kiprono and returned to the track last season where she won the women 10000m title in Beijing, her fourth gold at the biennial IAAF track and field showpiece.
The 2014 World Indoor silver medallist paid back Cheruiyot after the new Olympics champion came to her aid during the Kenyan Trials on July 1 in Eldoret when she paced her to Rio having clinched the 10000m ticket.
Both athletes are managed by Pace Management under Englishman Ricky Simms who also counts nine-time Jamaican Olympics champion, Usain Bolt, as one of his clients.
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