Flashback 2016: Cheruiyot finally blasts to Olympics gold
Kenyans celebrated the ascendancy of Vivian Cheruiyot to the coveted Olympics gold medal after a stellar 16 year career in a 2016 where Britain’s Mo Farah and Ethiopia’s Almaz Ayana dominated long distance track races.
The ‘Pocket Rocket’ who is moving on to the roads played a huge part in the greatest women 10000m race in history where she won the silver behind Ayana where the top 13 finishers set life time bests at the August Rio 2016 Olympics Games.
The world all-time list got a thorough revision with the Ethiopian, Cheruiyot, Tirunesh Dibaba and Alice Aprot moving to first, third, fourth and fifth respectively.
To her credit, Cheruiyot ran the third fastest time in history but it was only good enough for the second medal behind Ayana who simply put together one of the most astonishing races by a female runner on the track when she stopped the clock at 29:17.45.
The four-time world champion, 33, will not be disgraced by her 29:32.53 display for silver that is only behind China’s deposed record holder, Wang Junxia (29:31.78) as dethroned champion, Ethiopia’s Tirunesh who timed 29:42.56 took bronze in her life time best.
Cheruiyot then turned the tables on Ayana in the 5000m final days later for the crowning moment of her track career when she led compatriot Hellen Obiri to the Kenyan 1-2.
Cheruiyot caught Ayana with 700 meters to go and stormed away to the victory in 14:26.17, an Olympic record and a first gold medal in the women’s event for her country.
Cheruiyot’s teammate Obiri also caught Ayana on the backstretch of the penultimate lap and took the silver in 14:29.77.
After attempting to run away with the race as she did in winning the 10000m Ayana was well-beaten third in 14:33.59.
“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 after finally landing the only top medal that eluded her.
She exits the track as an OIympic, four-time World, World Cross, Commonwealth and African champion and made the long-list for the IAAF Female Athlete of the Year but Ayana was crowned the winner at the gala ceremony in Monaco in November.
Try as the might, the best Kenyan talent in the 5000m and 10000m disciplines could not dislodge Farah who defended his Olympics double in Rio.
In the 5000m, the Briton did have the best result heading into the major championships, having run a world-leading 12:59.29 in London in July.
In terms of quality at the top end, the 2016 season was relatively thin in this event.
Only four runners ran faster than 13 minutes during the season and Farah’s London result stayed as the world-leading time until the end of the year.
Ethiopia’s Muktar Edris and Dejen Gebremeskel had the next fastest times and while they made it to the final in Rio, they didn’t win a medal. Edris played a part in the final sprint, but was disqualified.
All three Kenyan representatives in this event at the Olympics Caleb Mwangangi, Charles Yosei Mneria and Moscow 2013 Worlds bronze winner, Isaiah Kiplangat Koech went out in the heats.
Ironically two Kenyan-born athletes running for other countries made the final.
As usual, Farah had few problems in winning the race. It wasn’t a slow race, but the athlete who finished closest to him was a shock.
Kenyan born USA’s Paul Chelimo, running in his first major outdoor championships, took the silver medal in a big PB of 13:03.90 behind Farah’s 13:03.30.
Chelimo arrived in Rio with a PB of 13:21.61, which he first bettered in the heats with 13:19.54. Hagos Gebrhiwet took the bronze medal for Ethiopia in 13:04.35, replicating his finish from the IAAF World Championships Beijing 2015.
The 10,000m was a similar story to the 5000m where fast PBs did not matter against the sprint finish of Farah.
The 33-year-old Briton competed once over this distance before Rio, posting a 26:53.71 win at the IAAF Diamond League meeting in Eugene in May.
It lasted one month as the world-leading mark before Yigrem Demelash won the Ethiopian Olympic Trial race in Hengelo in 26:51.11 at the end of June.
At the Olympics it was clear long before the final lap that it would come down to another sprint finish. Kenya’s Paul Tanui was the only runner able to keep Farah on his toes until the final metres.
Tanui, who had taken the bronze medal at the 2013 and 2015 IAAF World Championships, won the Kenyan Olympic Trials before Rio and clocked a season’s best of 27:05.64 for the silver medal behind Farah’s winning time of 27:05.17.
World leader Demelash fought hard for the bronze with fellow Ethiopian Tamirat Tola. The latter bagged the medal in 27:06.26, just 0.01 ahead of Demelash.
USA’s Galen Rupp, who finished second in 2012, was dropped off the medal chase during the last lap and finished fifth in 27:08.92.
-Material from iaaf.org used in this report
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