Tokyo queen Chepchirchir in heroic Eldoret welcome

Kenya's Sarah Chepchirchir (C, #55) crosses the finish line in the women's category of the Tokyo ...
Kenya's Sarah Chepchirchir (C, #55) crosses the finish line in the women's category of the Tokyo Marathon in Tokyo on February 26, 2017. (PHOTO/KAZUHIRO NOGI/AFP)

Sarah Chepchirchir jetted back home at a heroic reception at the Eldoret International Airport on Thursday night following her jaw-dropping conquest of the 2017 Tokyo Marathon where she became the 16th fastest female runner of all time at the distance.

Competing at her debut Abbot World Marathon Majors event, Chepchirchir who is a training partner of Olympics champion Jemimah Sumgong, produced a stunning victory in a Japan all comers record of 2:19:47.

Unheralded Chepchirchir who was featuring in only her third career marathon left fancied Ethiopian pair, Birhane Dibaba and Amane Gobena who took the lesser medals in her slipstream as she caught up with struggling male elite runners as she charged through for the title.

“I had been preparing since November but I was not expecting to break the record but by God’s will, I did it. I want to prepare for the World Championships in August,” the new Tokyo queen told reporters at the airport.

Having an illustrious training partner made Chepchirchir, 32, believe she can compete at the top level and the world took notice last Sunday in the streets of the Japanese capital in a course modified to make it flatter and faster by organisers ahead of this year’s race.

The Tokyo race was her third marathon having participated in Hamburg and Lisbon where she never broke the 2:22 barrier before dropping a massive five minutes off her lifetime best at the first Majors X race of the season.

“There is no secret, only training hard. I train with a champion, Sumgong who always encourages and motivates me,” Chepchirchir added.

She trains in Kapsabet and is a member of the former New York champion Stanley Biwott and Dr. Rosa Associati Company training camp.

Her Coach Noah Talam who is also the husband and trainer to Sumgong expressed his joy and lauded Chepchirchir for her perseverance.

“We are happy for the win in Tokyo. This is a big victory for us and our hope is to produce more champions from Nandi County who can go on and compete for their nation.

“The athletes I have coached are obedient, humble and follow instructions to the letter. Our training program is hard but they manage to take it on with the will and believe they will succeed,” Talam noted.

Cleophas Bett who is a brother to Chepchirchir also hailed her sibling.

“She has set a good example to be emulated by others. Nandi is a Source of Champions and she has proven that. I challenge Athletics Kenya to come to the grassroots and spot talent like Sarah and  providing training facilities to nurture young athletes.

“This is a first welcome ceremony, we will call more people to come and celebrate with us this success soon,” Bett declared.

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