Dominant Cheruiyot storms to Olympics in style
Four-time World Champion, Vivian Cheruiyot clinched her Rio 2016 Olympics ticket in style when she powered from a loaded field to complete a crushing triumph in 31:36.37 in Eldoret on Thursday as the Kenyan Trials got off to a resounding start.
In a stirring show of dominance, the two-time Olympics silver medallist primed herself to bag the only top medal missing from her rich collection when she detached herself from her rivals with eight laps to go to motor around unchallenged to the finish.
US based Betsy Saina followed her home in 32:04.83 with Gladys Chesire rounding the podium in 32:17.13 in a race where London 2012 Olympics silver medallist, Sally Kipyego became the biggest casualty after being forced out of Rio with a sixth finish in 32:37.11.
“I’m happy to be representing Kenya at the Olympics in what will be my last 10000m race at the Olympics. I was speaking to Betsy so that we could make the team together. I encouraged her to keep up with my pace so that we could make the team together.
“I believe we are going to deliver the medals with Betsy and Alice Aprot and I have confidence and I know my body is responding well to the training programme and that is why I was able to have a big lead,” the Daegu 2011 Worlds double gold medallist who won the 10000m title last year in Beijing added.
“I’m not intimidated by the Ethiopians,” the athlete who has been denied Olympics gold in Athens 2004, Beijing 2008 and London 2012 by runners from the neighbouring rivals added.
For birthday girl Saina, making the team was the best gift anyone could give her as she qualified for her first Olympics.
“I’m very happy to represent Kenya at the Olympics for the first time! I was the first girl from my village to go to the US and I’ll be the first to go to the Olympics. I’m very happy I will joining Alice and Vivian. When Irene fell, Vivian talked to me and encouraged to make the team,” the athlete who is turning 28 gushed with pure delight.
As expected, freshly minted African champion, Alice Aprot who won the title in Durban South Africa did not start with Athletics Kenya (AK) giving her a deserved wildcard ticket and that narrowed the odds at the start with only two tickets at stake.
Nothing in the early laps suggested so much was at stake as Saina, Cheruiyot, Chesire and former world junior champion, Irene Cheptai took turns to lead the field.
That was until Cheuiyot, who won 5000m silver and 10000m bronze in London attacked from the back straight with eight and a half laps left and steadily, without moving out of second gear, opened up a gap that was almost 100m at the finish.
With victory dusted as she turned the race into a procession, the battle for the second ticket was unfolding behind her between Cheptai and Saina. At the time, it was all over for the Oregon based Kipyego who followed Ethiopia’s Tirunesh Dibaba home for silver in London in the women 25-lap race.
Catastrophe struck for Cheptai with two laps to go when she tried to attack from the outside before to the shock of the packed Kipchoge Keino Stadium, staggered sideways before collapsing into a heap metres from the main dias.
Medical help was with her within a flash leaving Saina to coast to the last available Rio ticket in the women 10000m.
Cheruiyot will turn her attention to Friday’s 5000m race although the decision has not been made yet whether she will run both in Brazil.
“She is back! Having run for over 10 years, she is used to pressure and today in front of her home crowd, she was only too happy to give them a show. She has good speed even for 5000m and she wants to with Olympics gold since this is the last time she will be running on track.
“She has a good chance and we are not afraid of the Ethiopians. I know how (Almaz) Ayana trains so there is no worry if she decides to goes for the 5000m,” her spouse and coach, Moses Kiplagat explained.
Having fallen just short in a career that started in 1998 when she won a World Youth title, the ‘Pocket Rocket’ is well primed for a last hooray.
Additional reporting by Charity Wanja
1. Vivian Cheruiyot- 31:36.37
2. Betsy Saina- 32:04.83
3. Gladys Chesire- 32:17.35
4. Cynthia Limo-32:25.18
5. Caroline Kipkirui- 32:36.70
6. Sally Kipyego- 32:37.11
7. Beatrice Chepkemoi- 32:30.48
8. Doricah Obare-34:58.42
9. Rachael Chebet-35:42.20
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