Vivian Jepkemoi Cheruiyot of Kenya celebrates as she crosses the finish line to win the women's 10,000 metres final during day one  (Getty Images)
Vivian Jepkemoi Cheruiyot of Kenya celebrates as she crosses the finish line to win the women's 10,000 metres final during day one  (Getty Images)
  • COUNTRY Kenya Kenya
  • DATE OF BIRTH 11 SEP 1983


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Updated 15 June 2012

Vivian CHERUIYOT (OGW), Kenya

(3000m, 5000m, 10,000m, Cross Country)

Born 11 September 1983, Rokocho, Kaptarakwa, Keiyo District, Rift Valley

Height: 155 cm

Weight: 38 kg

Camp: Pace Management, Kaptagat

Manager: Ricky Simms

Residence: Kaptagat

The term ‘Pocket Rocket’ has been coined to describe this petite runner who continues to stretch frontiers in female distance running. The honours list has continued to expand for Vivian Cheruiyot who is the reigning double World, World Cross, Commonwealth 5,000m and African 5,000m champion since 1998 when she first competed for her nation.

At 28, the petite athlete, who hails from a peasant farming background, represents her country’s biggest hope for global dominance in female distance running and for her; the quest to chart even greater heights shows no signs of diminishing any time soon.

Career birth

Her given name, Cheruiyot means ‘one born during bedtime’ in her native dialect and it is therefore, telling she has given most of her competition sleepless nights.

While still at Chemwabul Primary School in Keiyo, Cheruiyot who weighs in at 38kg when in competition, started taking athletics seriously in 1996 while still in Standard Four (fourth year) competing at school competitions. “I noticed I had talent to run,” she said. “I found motivation within myself to do it.”

The following year, Cheruiyot’s brimming talent was discovered by veteran coach David Maiyo, who took her under his care, entering her in the national trials, in Nairobi, for the 1997 World Cross Country Championships. “When I went there, I won and was in the national team’s camp in Kigali (Embu, 130km from Nairobi),” she said. “However, I was dropped from the team for being under age.”

In 1998, Cheruiyot had to repeat Standard 5 but most importantly, it was the year she broke into the junior ranks of the national team and made her international debut, finishing fifth in the junior women’s race at the World Cross, in Marrakech.

Still a primary school pupil, Cheruiyot again made the national team for the World Cross Country the following year, 1999, this time in Belfast, where she took junior silver. Then, at the All Africa Games, in Johannesburg in June, she gained her first major track honour, bronze in the 5000m. That was after the amazing talent topped the national track and field championships to become the country’s 5000m title-holder.

Early 2000s

In 2000, the schoolgirl was crowned World Cross Country junior champion in Vilamoura, Portugal, before taking silver on the track in Kenya’s Championships to qualify for the Sydney Olympics.

“I finished 14th in the 5000m race in Sydney but I was proud of my performance since the Olympics are so huge,” she recalled.

In 2001, her final primary school year, Cheruiyot failed to hold on to her World Cross Country title in Ostend, finishing fifth, but more than made up for it by winning the African Junior 5000m title in Réduit, Mauritius.

Cheruiyot enrolled at Sing’ore Girls’ High School, an institution famed for its athletics prowess, for her secondary education in 2002.

As a first year student at Sing’ore (the same school that produced Sylvia Kibet) Cheruiyot won junior women’s bronze at the World Cross in Dublin. She was then crowned Kenya’s 5000m junior champion (15:49.7), earning her a berth in the national team for the World Junior Championships in Kingston, Jamaica. There she clocked 15:56.04 for bronze.

During the school holidays, Cheruiyot featured in two European races, in the Asics meeting in Helsinki, where she finished 10th in the 3000m (9:28.44) and at the Raiffeisen meeting in Germany, where she also finished 10th (9:21.94).

In the 2003 national trials, she finished fifth at 5000m, missing the cut for the World Championships in Paris and the All Africa Games in Abuja.

In 2004, Cheruiyot finished sixth at the National Championships to qualify for the World Cross Country in Brussels, where she finished eighth at 4km. But she failed to make it into the team for the Athens Olympics, finishing fourth in the 5000m trial (15:54.59).

2005 to 2010 - The evolution continues

In 2005, Cheruiyot opted to take a sabbatical to finish her final secondary school year (Form 4) at Singole, having missed out on the World Cross Country for the second time in a row since she made her debut in 1998. “I took part only in the National Cross Country Championships where I finished 10th (4km) and did not make the team,” she said. “From then, I did not take part in any other event that year.”

In 2006, having finished fourth in the 5000m trials for the Commonwealth Games in Melbourne, thus failing to make the team, Cheruiyot then focused on the cross country, taking sixth place in the senior women’s 4km short course trials to return to the Kenyan World Cross Country team, in Fukuoka, Japan, placing eighth in the world event.

In the summer season, Cheruiyot made her debut on the Golden League circuit, with two fifth places in Zurich (14:52.10) and Brussels (14:47.43). In the World Athletics Final, in Stuttgart, she was third in the 3000m and fifth in the 5000m.

Qualifying fourth through the trials at Ngong Racecourse, Nairobi, Cheruiyot went to finish eighth in the senior women’s 8km at the 2007 World Cross Country in Mombasa.

She then clinched the 1500/3000m double at the European Champion Clubs Cup, in Albufiera in May.  Her winning streak continued at the Norwich Union GP in Glasgow, on 3 June, where she clinched the 5000m (14:44.93) before setting a national record with second place (14:22.51) at the Bislett Games Golden League meeting in Oslo on 15 June. Ahead of her, Ethiopia’s Meseret Defar set a world record 14:16.63.

Cheruiyot returned to Kenya, winning the national 5000m trial for the World Championships in Osaka.  In the world final in Japan, she chased gold medallist Defar all the way, taking silver (14:58.50). That was followed by successive victories in the European GP circuit, at 3000m in Rieti GP (8:30.25) and at 5000m at the ISTAF IAAF Berlin Golden League meeting (14:50.78).

“That is the time I realised that we can get close to the Ethiopians. It gave me the belief that next time, our turn will come and when I returned home, I discussed with my husband and coach on how to develop a strong kick while remaining good in lapping,” she remarked.

In her second IAAF World Athletics Final appearance, Cheruiyot first took the 5000m title (14:56.94) before earning second place at 3000m (8:28.66).

In 2008, Cheruiyot finished eighth at the National Cross-Country cum trials (the two events were merged following the post-election unrest) for Edinburgh at Ngong Racecourse in Nairobi but after being belatedly named in the provisional squad under protest, Athletics Kenya (AK) dropped her from the final squad.

Cheruiyot turned to road races, winning over 5K in Carlsbad (15:14) on 6 April and 10K in Glasgow (31:32) on 18 May and back on track, she then dipped under 15 minutes at Prefontaine Classic (14:57.43) before being given a wild card for the Kenyan team to the Olympic Games in Beijing after finishing fourth in the trials in Nairobi.

In Beijing Cheruiyot was in a fast semi-final, timing 14:57.27 to make the final. She however could not produce another fast race ending up in fifth (15:46.32).

After the Games, Cheruiyot clocked her season best time of 14:25.43 in winning the Van Damme Memorial in Brussels. At the World Athletics Final in Stuttgart, she came in second in both 3,000 and 5,000m clocking 8:44.64 and 14:54.60 respectively.

Cheruiyot decided to skip the World Cross Country Championships in 2009, opting instead to give indoors a try. She registered a couple of victories in 3,000 metres, first in Valencia (8:42.13) and then set a national record in Birmingham (8:30.53) on 1 February. Continuing her progress also on the roads, she also set a new personal best in 10K (31:12) in San Juan on 1 March.

Cheruiyot got her outdoor season going in Doha in May posting a season’s best time in 1500 (4:07.41) for second place before winning the Great BUPA Run in 32:01, followed by a personal best in the rarely run 2000 metres in Eugene (5:31.52).

A third place finish at Golden Spike meeting in Ostrava (14:38.26) and a season best in Oslo (14:37.01) prepared her for the national trials.

Despite having only six athletes, the 12 and a half-lap race proved to be a thrilling spectacle as Cheruiyot and Sylvia Kibet fought hard for victory. The final lap had spectators on their feet as Cheruiyot put on the afterburners to power past Kibet in the very last few metres and win in 15:25.21.

“This was where we tested the new tactic, to run consistently but fast in the laps then use a strong kick in the finish. I was happy that Sylvia kept close since we had been working together on how to beat the Ethiopians in their own game and after this, we were sure we would get them,” she now discloses.

At the time, she also admitted that she drew inspiration from her greatest international track rival, Defar. 

“I like her since she has broken the World record and I have always wanted to be like her,” she said then. “I want to get ever closer and my aim to beat Defar at the World Championships this year.”

Running in Heat 2 at the World Championships in Berlin, Cheruiyot qualified for the final by finishing second to defending champion Defar in 15:16.59. “Today, I was just testing myself and I believe I have enough in reserve, just wait for the final,” she told reporters afterwards.

At the decider on August 22, Cheruiyot, who had only beaten Defar once (Brussels, September 2008) in their previous 11 meetings, stunned the equally diminutive Ethiopian with a 14:57.97 run characterised by an explosive finishing kick in the last 200m after she went outside of the Osaka champion who had taken the inner lane. A shocked Defar settled for bronze after Cheruiyot’s team mate, Kibet, stole in for silver at the line.

"All those times, I realised she was always waiting until the last 400m to kick past me and win. This time, I trained for speed especially in the last 200m. I was content at the back until the last 200m and beating her so close to the line as she had done in Osaka was the best moment in my life," Cheruiyot said after lifting the Defar ‘monkey’ off her back. 

“At a final, it is a last act, at the finish line, there is always something waiting and since everyone prepares for the last kick and you have to be the best. At that time, we knew we had finally managed to get the correct formula,” the beaming athlete reminisced with a faraway look that signalled the final seconds of her feet pounding the blue tartan track in Germany were replaying on her mind.

Silver (3,000m/8:30.61) and bronze (5,000m/15:26.21) at the World Athletics Final in Thessaloniki, Greece in September added to the medal basket of the freshly minted World champion.

Cheruiyot began her 2010 season by declaring she would skip Poland’s World Cross Championships and focus on indoor running, stating a World record attempt over 3,000m and rarely competed Two Miles were in the offing.

Her chance in the former presented itself at the Doha World Indoors, after being named alongside Kibet as her country’s representatives in the 3,000m women’s race. At the Aviva Grand Prix in Birmingham, Cheruiyot set a national record and personal best in the Two Mile when she ran 9:12.35, passing through 3,000m in 8:41.0 although she and double Olympic champion Tirunesh Dibaba who won failed to break Defar’s World record of 9:06.26.   

"My greatest ambition in life is to one day win a gold medal at the Olympics. I have my eye on the 2012 Olympic Games to be held in London," she told local media before her Doha assignment.

At the World Indoors, Cheruiyot clocked 9:01.35 in the third 3000 metres heat to qualify for the final, where she would line up against Ethiopia’s Defar in a rematch of the Berlin 5000m final. But try as she might, Cheruiyot could not reproduce her German heroics finishing behind Defar to clinch silver in 8:51.85.

A niggling groin injury troubled her early season track plans as she battled to get in under control.

But on June 26, Cheruiyot showed that she was still the top Kenyan girl in 5000 metres, effortlessly cruising to a win at the National Championships on June 26 in 15:31.39 to make the team for the African Athletics Championships.

Then a week later, she showed that she had fully recovered with a world leading time in 3000 metres in Lausanne as she beat her bitter rival Defar to win in 8:34.58.

A blistering win at the Paris Diamond League meet on July 16 further underlined her full recovery as she dominated the later stages of the race to win in another world leading time of 14:27.41.

When the gun went, signalling the start of the 5000 metres race at the Nyayo National stadium during the African Athletics Championships, all eyes were trained on Cheruiyot and her Ethiopian nemesis.

After a slow start, Cheruiyot moved to the front at the bell then powered away from Defar for a most comprehensive of wins in 16:18.72.

“The race was slow because there are no pacemakers in the championships, so I decided to stay with the rest till the last few laps, then I pushed to the very end because I really wanted to win at home,” she said adding, "I’m pleased to be beat Defar as she has been a strong champion, somebody who could not be beaten, but I believe not unbeatable now.".

"Congratulations to Vivian, she ran a great race particularly in the final lap," said a gracious Defar, after losing to her rival for the third time in a year.

A second place finish at the Aviva Diamond League meet in London in 14:38.17 on 13 August marked her return to Europe and Cheruiyot concluded her European season in style winning her specialty in 14:34.13 at the Van Damme memorial meet in Brussels.

A Diamond Trophy and a 40,000 dollar cheque were the fruits of that win. Victory at her home event earned her a ticket for the 4 and 5 September IAAF Continental Cup in Split, where Cheruiyot returned 16:05.74 to give Team Africa gold in the women’s 5000m.

Not done, she checked in three days before her race at the October Delhi Commonwealth Games and delivered a 15:55.12 performance to lead team mates Kibet (15:55.61) and Iness Chenonge (16:02.47) to the clean medal sweep, capping a memorable year although she came runner-up to Olympic 1500m titleholder, Nancy Jebet Langat who also had a barnstorming season, at the Soya Awards. “It’s my first Commonwealth Games medal and I’m so proud of it,” she said at the time.

After closing the year with victory at the Tuskys Wareng Cross Country meet in Eldoret, Cheruiyot announced she would be seeking to qualify for the World Cross.

2011 - The Explosion

As everyone set about ushering the New Year, Cheruiyot divided opinions when she declared, “I will go for the 5,000m and 10,000m double in the Daegu World Championships.”

That opened up another pitch rivalry, this time with compatriot Linet Masai who was at the time, the world titleholder at the longer distance.

Doubters were given even more reason to be sceptical when a third place in the snow at the Edinburgh Cross in January before being beaten by Masai at the National Cross Country Championships in February marked the opening to her 2011 campaign.

At the Punta Umbria World Cross in Spain on 20 March, Cheruiyot sounded the warning when she deployed the afterburners in a 6:03 blast in the last two kilometres to quash Masai and the rest of the field for her first World Cross senior title.

“Her closing 2km circuit was faster than some of the British men managed on the same course that day,” the BBC website wrote.

“The race was fine and I was really comfortable throughout. The weather was good and I did not want to push fast in the beginning until I realised late in the race if I did not breakaway, then we would lose the team title since it became fast,” she told reporters after completing the course in 24:58 for glory.

She added: “I feel so great after returning to the World Cross for the first time in four years and to win gold, fantastic. I was just aiming for any medal but now that I have gold, I’m so happy. This is a good preparation for the World Championships where I’m defending the title and winning here will give me great morale.”

Her victory in Punta Umbria set the stage for her planned double assault when the track season set in with the aside of denying Masai gold for a third consecutive year.

“I feel very happy, because I hadn’t any medal. I had been eighth three times. I hope to defend my title in the next championship. I’m very happy about Masai because we are friends outside the competitions and we also train together.”

Her next appearance was a winning dream 10,000m debut of 31:07.02 in Pontevedra on April 2, the significance of that win being first it was below the A-Standard for Daegu and secondly, it set another bar for gifted running machine.

Her four Diamond League races brought an equal number of wins, opening the campaign with a 14:31.92 shellacking of the opposition at the Shanghai leg on 15 May followed by a 14:33.96 triumph at Prefontaine (2 June).

Cheruiyot returned home for the World Championships Trials (15 July /31:55.8) where she opted to take on the 10,000m field where once again, her rocket finish proved to be far superior to Sally Kipyego and Priscah Jepleting who shared the podium after a largely pedestrian race prior to the final 400m.

“I believe I have the strength to win the double in Daegu. The 10,000m final is on the first day and we have another four before the 5000m preliminaries start. I have prepared well for this and winning the 10,000m here today is a big step,” Cheruiyot said in the aftermath of her win.

At the end of July, the Commonwealth and national 5,000m record fell as Cheruiyot romped around the Stockholm track almost unchallenged in a world leading 14:20.87 and also set a world leading 8:38.67 in 3000m en route. Ever the one to set higher bars, she boldly predicted a World record for next season.

“Next year and it will be me – I’m serious,” said the ever smiling runner. “I was thinking I was going to attempt the World record in Sweden but because of the weather, which was not good, it didn’t happen.”

On the first track final of the World Championships programme in Daegu, Cheruiyot led her country to the improbable 1-2-3-4 finish in the women 10,000m in a 30:48.98 lifetime best.

The date, 27 August was poignant since Kenya marked exactly one year since ushering the new birth of the nation with the promulgation of the new constitution.

 “This is a great day for Kenya, our girls have been excellent and the nation is also celebrating one year since we got a new constitution. “We watched what the marathoners did in the morning and told ourselves we will do the same and when I looked back and saw my team mates, I was filled with so much joy,” Cheruiyot said at the time as Sally Kipyego, Linet Masai and Jepleting followed her suit.

“When I won 10,000m, I felt happiness I had never experienced before since it was not my event. It felt as if something new had opened for me and I felt so easy running, at no point did I feel the distance was long.”

Six days later, she took to the Daegu Stadium track for her more familiar 5,000m and the outcome was the same, a scarcely believable 58.6 last-lap doing the trick as once again, Kibet played her bridesmaid.

“We had planned to work as a team but I knew I was strong enough to deliver what I promised Kenyans. Now, I’m so happy, so excited, the best I have ever felt and I thank God, my husband and all Kenyans for the support and I dedicate this to them,” Cheruiyot, whose radiant smile had extra shine said after the race.

After Daegu, a routine victory in the Diamond League Final in Zurich (8 September /14:30.10) confirmed her defence of the Diamond Trophy and the $40,000 jackpot in the women 3000m/5000m for the second year running to cap the most stellar season in her career.

Monaco disappointment

Following an unbeaten campaign and three World titles, Cheruiyot’s name featured prominently in the annual IAF World Gala awards list where as expected, she made the final-three shortlist in the Female Athlete of the Year Award.

The news was received with a lot of optimism in the Cheruiyot camp with the athlete saying, “There is a big chance I will become the female winner this year but since it’s my first time, I don’t know how the voting goes and if I do not win it, I will work towards returning there next year.”

However, fellow Daegu champion, Sally Pearson, got the nod for the top award, with Cheruiyot feted with the Female Performance of the Year recognition in a decision that was received with uproar back home.

But there was no surprise when she was named the first winner of the Overall Sports Personality of the Year at Kenya’s red carpet SOYA Awards where she shared the stage with World marathon record holder, Patrick Makau who bagged the Sportsman of the Year Award.

“It’s so wonderful, these SOYA Awards have made me happy, since when I was in Monaco I was so disappointed and I kept asking why they did this to me since when I went there, I automatically knew, I would be the World Athlete of the Year,” the Daegu 5,000m and 10,000m winner said.

Cheruiyot welcomed 2012 with a second finish at the Seville IAAF Permit Cross Country meet (Jan 15) where she was led to the line by Masai.

“My main target remains the Olympics. I will not feature at the Africa Cross Country or many events so that I can reserve all my shape for the Olympics where I hope to win another double.”

London Olympics double charge

After initially refraining from officially declaring ambitions to go for another distance double at the 2012 London Games, where gold success could open new frontiers for her as the first runner from her nation to reach that peak, Cheruiyot formally broadcast on 12 June she was up for the challenge.

She had just completed a tactical 32:24:52 win at the Kenyan women 10,000m Trial in Nairobi.

"Yes, I will go for the double. I still have a month and two weeks to train for the Olympics Games, so I will be ready. I know everybody is training hard and I will also train hard because I know we will meet with those ladies from Ethiopia and my teammates as well.

"I will try my level best to bring something good for the country. I have a week to rest before the 5000m Trial and I will be there as well," the African and Commonwealth titleholder told IAAF post race.

With a resurgent double Beijing champion, Tirunesh bouncing back to rich form, Cheruiyot, who had extended her unbeaten streak on the track with her two opening Diamond League races in Doha (3000m/8:46.44/11 May) and Rome (5000m/14:35.62/WL/31 May) when she stopped arch-rival Meseret on both occasions, charged she was not cowed by the ‘Baby Faced Destroyer’.

“I have no fear of Dibaba or Meseret Defar since we have to race together and I’m ready for them since I have run against them in the past,” she braved inviting an enticing prospect of a showdown that could go down distance running folklore in London.

Off the track

Cheruiyot is happily married to Moses Kiplagat, a former runner who is her personal coach. Unlike most of the women from Kenya’s Rift Valley, the Pocket Rocket decided to scale the heights in her career before settling down to establishing a family.

The couple live in their beautifully manicured maisonette in Korkitony (near Eldoret) with interests in real estate, farming and transport businesses in Eldoret, Nairobi and rural home.

In an uninhibited display of affection, her spouse received one of the most passionate kisses from her jubilant partner at the Mixed Zone after she clinched her double in Daegu.

 “There is nothing much we did. We just took her training programme and added an extra distance, a kilometre or two in the long run and between 400m and 600m on the track. I have to give her the credit, she is so focused on training and keeps setting targets,” Kiplagat disclosed how she attained her shape.

Cheruiyot returned the compliments: “I love my husband since he understands what I need to be successful. He helps me in training and is always there for me at home. We wake up together at 5 am for training and when we are done, he then takes care of our businesses, leaving me to focus on my career,” she gushed.

Then looking into his eyes, Cheruiyot added, “To get such a man who understands what a successful woman needs is hard, but I’m grateful to have him and that is why I embraced him when I saw him after winning the 5000m  in the crowded mixed zone.”

“Both of my gold medals in Daegu were special, I can place none above the other. Before I decided I was going to double, I was already set and decided to go out and try my best. Many had tried to do it before, I believed I could make it and I thank God,” she stated.

On her searing last lap kick she has perfected since winning her first World title in Berlin two years ago, Cheruiyot disclosed, “That is a natural kick and hard training. When I’m training, I train knowing I must have a fast quick lap. At a final, it is a last act, at the finish line, there is always something waiting and since everyone prepares for the last kick and you have to be the best.”

Having amassed a fortune that would propel her to a jet set lifestyle in the course of her career, with flashy cars, designer wear et al being part of the repertoire, Cheruiyot and her spouse only allow themselves simple luxuries.

“I love nature and wildlife and a visit to Tsavo or Meru National Parks would be welcome,” as she threw suggestive glances at her spouse.

Amid the humble village folk with whom she shares an address, the illustrious company of the 2010 World Cross champion, Joseph Ebuya and Daegu marathon silver winner, Vincent Kiprop, are among fellow athletes in close proximity.

“When we are at home, she plays the wife,” Kiplagat said during a visit to their welcoming home as her spouse proceeded to pour him a cup of tea. “We leave matters to do with the sport outside and to be with such a famous wife, it means you must be prepared to be her support since there many are out to mislead such talent. My work is to make her remain focused.”

“I have to sacrifice a lot to play the role of husband and coach without making either come in the way.”

Honours and citations

Besides a medal and trophy cabinet that is bursting at the seams, Cheruiyot was conferred the Order of Grand Warrior (OGW) State honour by the country’s President, Dr. Mwai Kibaki, to mark the nation’s 46th birthday on 12 December, 2009, following her epic triumph in Berlin, where she became the first Kenyan runner to ascend to the 5,000m women’s title.  

She has since been promoted to the rank of Inspector at Kenya Police Force where she serves and on 3 January 2012, she was named the Female Athlete of the Year by US Track and Field Magazine, before being decorated as Laureus Female Athlete of the Year on 7 February, a high accolade that went some way in wiping away her Monaco heartache.

Cheruiyot was voted by the Laureus World Sports Academy members of 47 of the greatest sportsmen and sportswomen of all time that includes Kenya’s legend Kipchoge Keino and became the first Kenya woman and only the second ever sportsperson from her country after the former to win an individual decoration at the premier awards.

Personal Bests

1500m: 4:06.65 (2007)

3000m: 8:28.66 (2007)

5000m: 14:20.87 (2011)

10,000m: 30:48.98 (2011)

10km:   31:07 (2010)

Indoors

3000m: 8:30.53 (2009)

Yearly Progression

3000m: 1999 - 9:04.42; 2002 - 9:21.94; 2005 - ; 2006 - 8:38.86; 2007 - 8:28.66; 2008 - 8:33.66, 2009-8:30.61; 2010-8:34.58; 2011-8:38.67; 2012- 8:46.44

5000m:  1999 - 15:42.79; 2000 - 15:11.11; 2001 - 15:59.4; 2002 - 15:49.7; 2003 - 15:44.8; 2004 - 15:13.26; 2005 -; 2006 - 14:47.43; 2007- 14:22.51; 2008 - 14:25.43; 2009 - 14:37.01; 2010- 14:27.41: 2011-14:20.87; 2012- 14:35.62

10,000m: 2011-30:48.98; 2012- 32:24:52A

Career Highlights

1998              5th            World Cross Country Championships (junior)

1999               2nd             World Cross Country Championships (junior)

1999              3rd             All Africa Games (5000m)

2000              1st              World Cross Country Championships (junior)

2000            14th            Olympic Games (5000m)

2001               4th            World Cross Country Championships (junior)

2001               1st             African Junior Championships (5000m)

2002              3rd             World Cross Country Championships (junior)

2002              3rd             World Junior Championships (5000m)

2003               5th             World Cross Country Championships (4km)

2004              8th             World Cross Country Championships (4km)

2006               8th            World Cross Country Championships (4km)

2006               3rd             World Athletics Final (3000m)

2006               5th             World Athletics Final (5000m)

2007              8th             World Cross Country Championships (8km)

2007              2nd             World Championships (5000m)

2007              1st             World Athletics Final (5000m)

2007              2nd             World Athletics Final (3000m)

2008               5th             Olympic Games (5000m)

2008               2nd             World athletics Final (3000m)

2008               2nd             World Athletics Final (5000m)

2009              1st            World Championships (5000m)

2009              2nd            World Athletics Final (3000m)

2009              3rd            World Athletics Final (5000m)

2010               2nd           World Indoor Championships (3000m)

2010               1st      African Athletics Championships (5000m)

2010                1st      Diamond League Race Final Standings (5000m)           

2010                1st      Continental Cup (5000m)           

2010                1st      Commonwealth Games (5000m)

2011              1st            World Cross Country Championships

2011              1st            World Championships (5000m)

2011              1st            World Championships (10000m)

2011              1st            Diamond League Race Final Standings (3000m/5000m)           

Prepared by James Wokabi and Mutwiri Mutuota for the IAAF ‘Focus on Athletes’ project. Copyright IAAF 2008-2012.

Personal Best - Outdoor
Performance Wind Place Date
1500 Metres 4:06.6 Nairobi 18 MAY 2012
2000 Metres 5:31.52 Eugene, OR 07 JUN 2009
3000 Metres 8:28.66 Stuttgart 23 SEP 2007
5000 Metres 14:20.87 Stockholm 29 JUL 2011
10,000 Metres 30:30.44 London (OP) 03 AUG 2012
10 Kilometres 30:47 San Juan, PUR 26 FEB 2012
Personal Best - Indoor
Performance Wind Place Date
3000 Metres 8:30.53 Birmingham, GBR 21 FEB 2009
Two Miles 9:12.35 Birmingham, GBR 20 FEB 2010
Progression - Outdoor showShow All Graphs
1500 Metres Show Graphshow
Performance Place Date
2012 4:06.6 Nairobi 18 MAY
2010 4:12.4 Kakamega 18 APR
2009 4:07.41 Doha 08 MAY
2007 4:06.65 Doha 11 MAY
2000 Metres Show Graphshow
Performance Place Date
2009 5:31.52 Eugene, OR 07 JUN
2008 5:52.01 Eugene, OR 08 JUN
3000 Metres Show Graphshow
Performance Place Date
2012 8:41.22 Birmingham, GBR 26 AUG
2010 8:34.58 Lausanne 08 JUL
2009 8:30.61 Thessaloníki 13 SEP
2008 8:33.66 Gateshead 31 AUG
2007 8:28.66 Stuttgart 23 SEP
2006 8:38.86 Stuttgart 10 SEP
2002 9:21.94 Linz 19 AUG
1999 9:04.42 Bydgoszcz 17 JUL
5000 Metres Show Graphshow
Performance Place Date
2012 14:35.62 Roma (Stadio Olimpico) 31 MAY
2011 14:20.87 Stockholm 29 JUL
2010 14:27.41 Paris Saint-Denis 16 JUL
2009 14:37.01 Oslo (Bislett) 03 JUL
2008 14:25.43 Bruxelles 05 SEP
2007 14:22.51 Oslo 15 JUN
2006 14:47.43 Bruxelles 25 AUG
2004 15:13.26 Sevilla 05 JUN
2003 15:44.8 Nairobi 12 JUL
2002 15:49.7 Nairobi 19 JUN
2001 15:59.4 Nairobi 23 JUN
2000 15:11.11 Sydney 22 SEP
1999 15:42.79 Johannesburg 15 SEP
10,000 Metres Show Graphshow
Performance Place Date
2012 30:30.44 London (OP) 03 AUG
2011 30:48.98 Daegu 27 AUG
10 Kilometres Show Graphshow
Performance Place Date
2012 30:47 San Juan, PUR 26 FEB
2010 31:07 San Juan, PUR 28 FEB
2009 31:12 San Juan, PUR 01 MAR
2008 31:32 Glasgow 18 MAY
2007 32:08 Glasgow 13 MAY
2006 32:26 Glasgow 21 MAY
Progression - Indoor showShow All Graphs
3000 Metres Show Graphshow
Performance Place Date
2010 8:41.0 Birmingham, GBR 20 FEB
2009 8:30.53 Birmingham, GBR 21 FEB
Two Miles Show Graphshow
Performance Place Date
2010 9:12.35 Birmingham, GBR 20 FEB
Honours - 3000 Metres
Rank Mark Wind Place Date
13th IAAF World Indoor Championships 2 8:51.85 Doha (Aspire Dome) 13 MAR 2010
IAAF/VTB Bank World Athletics Final 2 8:30.61 Thessaloníki 13 SEP 2009
6th IAAF/VTB Bank World Athletics Final 2 8:44.64 Stuttgart 14 SEP 2008
5th IAAF World Athletics Final 2 8:28.66 Stuttgart 23 SEP 2007
4th IAAF World Athletics Final 3 8:38.86 Stuttgart 10 SEP 2006
1st IAAF World Youth Championships 3 9:04.42 Bydgoszcz 17 JUL 1999
Honours - 5000 Metres
Rank Mark Wind Place Date
The XXX Olympic Games 2 15:04.73 London (OP) 10 AUG 2012
13th IAAF World Championships in Athletics 1 14:55.36 Daegu 02 SEP 2011
1st IAAF/VTB Bank Continental Cup 2010 1 16:05.74 Split (Poljud Stadium) 05 SEP 2010
IAAF/VTB Bank World Athletics Final 3 15:26.21 Thessaloníki 12 SEP 2009
12th IAAF World Championships in Athletics 1 14:57.97 Berlin (Olympiastadion) 22 AUG 2009
6th IAAF/VTB Bank World Athletics Final 2 14:54.60 Stuttgart 13 SEP 2008
The XXIX Olympic Games 5 15:46.32 Beijing (National Stadium) 22 AUG 2008
5th IAAF World Athletics Final 1 14:56.94 Stuttgart 22 SEP 2007
11th IAAF World Championships in Athletics 2 14:58.50 Osaka (Nagai Stadium) 01 SEP 2007
4th IAAF World Athletics Final 5 16:07.95 Stuttgart 09 SEP 2006
IAAF/Coca Cola World Junior Championships 3 15:56.04 Kingston, JAM 21 JUL 2002
27th Olympic Games 14 15:33.66 Sydney 25 SEP 2000
Honours - 10,000 Metres
Rank Mark Wind Place Date
The XXX Olympic Games 3 30:30.44 London (OP) 03 AUG 2012
13th IAAF World Championships in Athletics 1 30:48.98 Daegu 27 AUG 2011
Honours - Senior Race
Rank Mark Wind Place Date
39th IAAF World Cross Country Championships 1 24:58 Punta Umbría 20 MAR 2011
35th IAAF World Cross Country Championships 8 28:10 Mombasa 24 MAR 2007
Honours - Junior Race
Rank Mark Wind Place Date
30th IAAF/Sport Ireland World Cross Country Championships 3 20:22 Dublin 23 MAR 2002
IAAF World Cross Country Championships 4 22:06 Oostende 24 MAR 2001
28th World Cross Country Championships 1 20:34 Vilamoura 18 MAR 2000
27th IAAF World Cross Country Championships 2 21:37 Belfast 27 MAR 1999
IAAF World Cross Country Championships 5 19:47 Marrakech 21 MAR 1998
Honours - Short Race
Rank Mark Wind Place Date
34th IAAF World Cross Country Championships 8 13:10 Fukuoka 02 APR 2006
32nd IAAF World Cross Country Championships 8 13:23 Bruxelles 21 MAR 2004


Focus on Athletes biographies are produced by the IAAF Communications Dept, and not by the IAAF Statistics and Documentation Division. If you have any enquiries concerning the information, please use the Contact IAAF page, selecting ‘Focus on Athletes Biographies’ in the drop down menu of contact area options.


Updated 15 June 2012

Vivian CHERUIYOT (OGW), Kenya

(3000m, 5000m, 10,000m, Cross Country)

Born 11 September 1983, Rokocho, Kaptarakwa, Keiyo District, Rift Valley

Height: 155 cm

Weight: 38 kg

Camp: Pace Management, Kaptagat

Manager: Ricky Simms

Residence: Kaptagat

The term ‘Pocket Rocket’ has been coined to describe this petite runner who continues to stretch frontiers in female distance running. The honours list has continued to expand for Vivian Cheruiyot who is the reigning double World, World Cross, Commonwealth 5,000m and African 5,000m champion since 1998 when she first competed for her nation.

At 28, the petite athlete, who hails from a peasant farming background, represents her country’s biggest hope for global dominance in female distance running and for her; the quest to chart even greater heights shows no signs of diminishing any time soon.

Career birth

Her given name, Cheruiyot means ‘one born during bedtime’ in her native dialect and it is therefore, telling she has given most of her competition sleepless nights.

While still at Chemwabul Primary School in Keiyo, Cheruiyot who weighs in at 38kg when in competition, started taking athletics seriously in 1996 while still in Standard Four (fourth year) competing at school competitions. “I noticed I had talent to run,” she said. “I found motivation within myself to do it.”

The following year, Cheruiyot’s brimming talent was discovered by veteran coach David Maiyo, who took her under his care, entering her in the national trials, in Nairobi, for the 1997 World Cross Country Championships. “When I went there, I won and was in the national team’s camp in Kigali (Embu, 130km from Nairobi),” she said. “However, I was dropped from the team for being under age.”

In 1998, Cheruiyot had to repeat Standard 5 but most importantly, it was the year she broke into the junior ranks of the national team and made her international debut, finishing fifth in the junior women’s race at the World Cross, in Marrakech.

Still a primary school pupil, Cheruiyot again made the national team for the World Cross Country the following year, 1999, this time in Belfast, where she took junior silver. Then, at the All Africa Games, in Johannesburg in June, she gained her first major track honour, bronze in the 5000m. That was after the amazing talent topped the national track and field championships to become the country’s 5000m title-holder.

Early 2000s

In 2000, the schoolgirl was crowned World Cross Country junior champion in Vilamoura, Portugal, before taking silver on the track in Kenya’s Championships to qualify for the Sydney Olympics.

“I finished 14th in the 5000m race in Sydney but I was proud of my performance since the Olympics are so huge,” she recalled.

In 2001, her final primary school year, Cheruiyot failed to hold on to her World Cross Country title in Ostend, finishing fifth, but more than made up for it by winning the African Junior 5000m title in Réduit, Mauritius.

Cheruiyot enrolled at Sing’ore Girls’ High School, an institution famed for its athletics prowess, for her secondary education in 2002.

As a first year student at Sing’ore (the same school that produced Sylvia Kibet) Cheruiyot won junior women’s bronze at the World Cross in Dublin. She was then crowned Kenya’s 5000m junior champion (15:49.7), earning her a berth in the national team for the World Junior Championships in Kingston, Jamaica. There she clocked 15:56.04 for bronze.

During the school holidays, Cheruiyot featured in two European races, in the Asics meeting in Helsinki, where she finished 10th in the 3000m (9:28.44) and at the Raiffeisen meeting in Germany, where she also finished 10th (9:21.94).

In the 2003 national trials, she finished fifth at 5000m, missing the cut for the World Championships in Paris and the All Africa Games in Abuja.

In 2004, Cheruiyot finished sixth at the National Championships to qualify for the World Cross Country in Brussels, where she finished eighth at 4km. But she failed to make it into the team for the Athens Olympics, finishing fourth in the 5000m trial (15:54.59).

2005 to 2010 - The evolution continues

In 2005, Cheruiyot opted to take a sabbatical to finish her final secondary school year (Form 4) at Singole, having missed out on the World Cross Country for the second time in a row since she made her debut in 1998. “I took part only in the National Cross Country Championships where I finished 10th (4km) and did not make the team,” she said. “From then, I did not take part in any other event that year.”

In 2006, having finished fourth in the 5000m trials for the Commonwealth Games in Melbourne, thus failing to make the team, Cheruiyot then focused on the cross country, taking sixth place in the senior women’s 4km short course trials to return to the Kenyan World Cross Country team, in Fukuoka, Japan, placing eighth in the world event.

In the summer season, Cheruiyot made her debut on the Golden League circuit, with two fifth places in Zurich (14:52.10) and Brussels (14:47.43). In the World Athletics Final, in Stuttgart, she was third in the 3000m and fifth in the 5000m.

Qualifying fourth through the trials at Ngong Racecourse, Nairobi, Cheruiyot went to finish eighth in the senior women’s 8km at the 2007 World Cross Country in Mombasa.

She then clinched the 1500/3000m double at the European Champion Clubs Cup, in Albufiera in May.  Her winning streak continued at the Norwich Union GP in Glasgow, on 3 June, where she clinched the 5000m (14:44.93) before setting a national record with second place (14:22.51) at the Bislett Games Golden League meeting in Oslo on 15 June. Ahead of her, Ethiopia’s Meseret Defar set a world record 14:16.63.

Cheruiyot returned to Kenya, winning the national 5000m trial for the World Championships in Osaka.  In the world final in Japan, she chased gold medallist Defar all the way, taking silver (14:58.50). That was followed by successive victories in the European GP circuit, at 3000m in Rieti GP (8:30.25) and at 5000m at the ISTAF IAAF Berlin Golden League meeting (14:50.78).

“That is the time I realised that we can get close to the Ethiopians. It gave me the belief that next time, our turn will come and when I returned home, I discussed with my husband and coach on how to develop a strong kick while remaining good in lapping,” she remarked.

In her second IAAF World Athletics Final appearance, Cheruiyot first took the 5000m title (14:56.94) before earning second place at 3000m (8:28.66).

In 2008, Cheruiyot finished eighth at the National Cross-Country cum trials (the two events were merged following the post-election unrest) for Edinburgh at Ngong Racecourse in Nairobi but after being belatedly named in the provisional squad under protest, Athletics Kenya (AK) dropped her from the final squad.

Cheruiyot turned to road races, winning over 5K in Carlsbad (15:14) on 6 April and 10K in Glasgow (31:32) on 18 May and back on track, she then dipped under 15 minutes at Prefontaine Classic (14:57.43) before being given a wild card for the Kenyan team to the Olympic Games in Beijing after finishing fourth in the trials in Nairobi.

In Beijing Cheruiyot was in a fast semi-final, timing 14:57.27 to make the final. She however could not produce another fast race ending up in fifth (15:46.32).

After the Games, Cheruiyot clocked her season best time of 14:25.43 in winning the Van Damme Memorial in Brussels. At the World Athletics Final in Stuttgart, she came in second in both 3,000 and 5,000m clocking 8:44.64 and 14:54.60 respectively.

Cheruiyot decided to skip the World Cross Country Championships in 2009, opting instead to give indoors a try. She registered a couple of victories in 3,000 metres, first in Valencia (8:42.13) and then set a national record in Birmingham (8:30.53) on 1 February. Continuing her progress also on the roads, she also set a new personal best in 10K (31:12) in San Juan on 1 March.

Cheruiyot got her outdoor season going in Doha in May posting a season’s best time in 1500 (4:07.41) for second place before winning the Great BUPA Run in 32:01, followed by a personal best in the rarely run 2000 metres in Eugene (5:31.52).

A third place finish at Golden Spike meeting in Ostrava (14:38.26) and a season best in Oslo (14:37.01) prepared her for the national trials.

Despite having only six athletes, the 12 and a half-lap race proved to be a thrilling spectacle as Cheruiyot and Sylvia Kibet fought hard for victory. The final lap had spectators on their feet as Cheruiyot put on the afterburners to power past Kibet in the very last few metres and win in 15:25.21.

“This was where we tested the new tactic, to run consistently but fast in the laps then use a strong kick in the finish. I was happy that Sylvia kept close since we had been working together on how to beat the Ethiopians in their own game and after this, we were sure we would get them,” she now discloses.

At the time, she also admitted that she drew inspiration from her greatest international track rival, Defar. 

“I like her since she has broken the World record and I have always wanted to be like her,” she said then. “I want to get ever closer and my aim to beat Defar at the World Championships this year.”

Running in Heat 2 at the World Championships in Berlin, Cheruiyot qualified for the final by finishing second to defending champion Defar in 15:16.59. “Today, I was just testing myself and I believe I have enough in reserve, just wait for the final,” she told reporters afterwards.

At the decider on August 22, Cheruiyot, who had only beaten Defar once (Brussels, September 2008) in their previous 11 meetings, stunned the equally diminutive Ethiopian with a 14:57.97 run characterised by an explosive finishing kick in the last 200m after she went outside of the Osaka champion who had taken the inner lane. A shocked Defar settled for bronze after Cheruiyot’s team mate, Kibet, stole in for silver at the line.

"All those times, I realised she was always waiting until the last 400m to kick past me and win. This time, I trained for speed especially in the last 200m. I was content at the back until the last 200m and beating her so close to the line as she had done in Osaka was the best moment in my life," Cheruiyot said after lifting the Defar ‘monkey’ off her back. 

“At a final, it is a last act, at the finish line, there is always something waiting and since everyone prepares for the last kick and you have to be the best. At that time, we knew we had finally managed to get the correct formula,” the beaming athlete reminisced with a faraway look that signalled the final seconds of her feet pounding the blue tartan track in Germany were replaying on her mind.

Silver (3,000m/8:30.61) and bronze (5,000m/15:26.21) at the World Athletics Final in Thessaloniki, Greece in September added to the medal basket of the freshly minted World champion.

Cheruiyot began her 2010 season by declaring she would skip Poland’s World Cross Championships and focus on indoor running, stating a World record attempt over 3,000m and rarely competed Two Miles were in the offing.

Her chance in the former presented itself at the Doha World Indoors, after being named alongside Kibet as her country’s representatives in the 3,000m women’s race. At the Aviva Grand Prix in Birmingham, Cheruiyot set a national record and personal best in the Two Mile when she ran 9:12.35, passing through 3,000m in 8:41.0 although she and double Olympic champion Tirunesh Dibaba who won failed to break Defar’s World record of 9:06.26.   

"My greatest ambition in life is to one day win a gold medal at the Olympics. I have my eye on the 2012 Olympic Games to be held in London," she told local media before her Doha assignment.

At the World Indoors, Cheruiyot clocked 9:01.35 in the third 3000 metres heat to qualify for the final, where she would line up against Ethiopia’s Defar in a rematch of the Berlin 5000m final. But try as she might, Cheruiyot could not reproduce her German heroics finishing behind Defar to clinch silver in 8:51.85.

A niggling groin injury troubled her early season track plans as she battled to get in under control.

But on June 26, Cheruiyot showed that she was still the top Kenyan girl in 5000 metres, effortlessly cruising to a win at the National Championships on June 26 in 15:31.39 to make the team for the African Athletics Championships.

Then a week later, she showed that she had fully recovered with a world leading time in 3000 metres in Lausanne as she beat her bitter rival Defar to win in 8:34.58.

A blistering win at the Paris Diamond League meet on July 16 further underlined her full recovery as she dominated the later stages of the race to win in another world leading time of 14:27.41.

When the gun went, signalling the start of the 5000 metres race at the Nyayo National stadium during the African Athletics Championships, all eyes were trained on Cheruiyot and her Ethiopian nemesis.

After a slow start, Cheruiyot moved to the front at the bell then powered away from Defar for a most comprehensive of wins in 16:18.72.

“The race was slow because there are no pacemakers in the championships, so I decided to stay with the rest till the last few laps, then I pushed to the very end because I really wanted to win at home,” she said adding, "I’m pleased to be beat Defar as she has been a strong champion, somebody who could not be beaten, but I believe not unbeatable now.".

"Congratulations to Vivian, she ran a great race particularly in the final lap," said a gracious Defar, after losing to her rival for the third time in a year.

A second place finish at the Aviva Diamond League meet in London in 14:38.17 on 13 August marked her return to Europe and Cheruiyot concluded her European season in style winning her specialty in 14:34.13 at the Van Damme memorial meet in Brussels.

A Diamond Trophy and a 40,000 dollar cheque were the fruits of that win. Victory at her home event earned her a ticket for the 4 and 5 September IAAF Continental Cup in Split, where Cheruiyot returned 16:05.74 to give Team Africa gold in the women’s 5000m.

Not done, she checked in three days before her race at the October Delhi Commonwealth Games and delivered a 15:55.12 performance to lead team mates Kibet (15:55.61) and Iness Chenonge (16:02.47) to the clean medal sweep, capping a memorable year although she came runner-up to Olympic 1500m titleholder, Nancy Jebet Langat who also had a barnstorming season, at the Soya Awards. “It’s my first Commonwealth Games medal and I’m so proud of it,” she said at the time.

After closing the year with victory at the Tuskys Wareng Cross Country meet in Eldoret, Cheruiyot announced she would be seeking to qualify for the World Cross.

2011 - The Explosion

As everyone set about ushering the New Year, Cheruiyot divided opinions when she declared, “I will go for the 5,000m and 10,000m double in the Daegu World Championships.”

That opened up another pitch rivalry, this time with compatriot Linet Masai who was at the time, the world titleholder at the longer distance.

Doubters were given even more reason to be sceptical when a third place in the snow at the Edinburgh Cross in January before being beaten by Masai at the National Cross Country Championships in February marked the opening to her 2011 campaign.

At the Punta Umbria World Cross in Spain on 20 March, Cheruiyot sounded the warning when she deployed the afterburners in a 6:03 blast in the last two kilometres to quash Masai and the rest of the field for her first World Cross senior title.

“Her closing 2km circuit was faster than some of the British men managed on the same course that day,” the BBC website wrote.

“The race was fine and I was really comfortable throughout. The weather was good and I did not want to push fast in the beginning until I realised late in the race if I did not breakaway, then we would lose the team title since it became fast,” she told reporters after completing the course in 24:58 for glory.

She added: “I feel so great after returning to the World Cross for the first time in four years and to win gold, fantastic. I was just aiming for any medal but now that I have gold, I’m so happy. This is a good preparation for the World Championships where I’m defending the title and winning here will give me great morale.”

Her victory in Punta Umbria set the stage for her planned double assault when the track season set in with the aside of denying Masai gold for a third consecutive year.

“I feel very happy, because I hadn’t any medal. I had been eighth three times. I hope to defend my title in the next championship. I’m very happy about Masai because we are friends outside the competitions and we also train together.”

Her next appearance was a winning dream 10,000m debut of 31:07.02 in Pontevedra on April 2, the significance of that win being first it was below the A-Standard for Daegu and secondly, it set another bar for gifted running machine.

Her four Diamond League races brought an equal number of wins, opening the campaign with a 14:31.92 shellacking of the opposition at the Shanghai leg on 15 May followed by a 14:33.96 triumph at Prefontaine (2 June).

Cheruiyot returned home for the World Championships Trials (15 July /31:55.8) where she opted to take on the 10,000m field where once again, her rocket finish proved to be far superior to Sally Kipyego and Priscah Jepleting who shared the podium after a largely pedestrian race prior to the final 400m.

“I believe I have the strength to win the double in Daegu. The 10,000m final is on the first day and we have another four before the 5000m preliminaries start. I have prepared well for this and winning the 10,000m here today is a big step,” Cheruiyot said in the aftermath of her win.

At the end of July, the Commonwealth and national 5,000m record fell as Cheruiyot romped around the Stockholm track almost unchallenged in a world leading 14:20.87 and also set a world leading 8:38.67 in 3000m en route. Ever the one to set higher bars, she boldly predicted a World record for next season.

“Next year and it will be me – I’m serious,” said the ever smiling runner. “I was thinking I was going to attempt the World record in Sweden but because of the weather, which was not good, it didn’t happen.”

On the first track final of the World Championships programme in Daegu, Cheruiyot led her country to the improbable 1-2-3-4 finish in the women 10,000m in a 30:48.98 lifetime best.

The date, 27 August was poignant since Kenya marked exactly one year since ushering the new birth of the nation with the promulgation of the new constitution.

 “This is a great day for Kenya, our girls have been excellent and the nation is also celebrating one year since we got a new constitution. “We watched what the marathoners did in the morning and told ourselves we will do the same and when I looked back and saw my team mates, I was filled with so much joy,” Cheruiyot said at the time as Sally Kipyego, Linet Masai and Jepleting followed her suit.

“When I won 10,000m, I felt happiness I had never experienced before since it was not my event. It felt as if something new had opened for me and I felt so easy running, at no point did I feel the distance was long.”

Six days later, she took to the Daegu Stadium track for her more familiar 5,000m and the outcome was the same, a scarcely believable 58.6 last-lap doing the trick as once again, Kibet played her bridesmaid.

“We had planned to work as a team but I knew I was strong enough to deliver what I promised Kenyans. Now, I’m so happy, so excited, the best I have ever felt and I thank God, my husband and all Kenyans for the support and I dedicate this to them,” Cheruiyot, whose radiant smile had extra shine said after the race.

After Daegu, a routine victory in the Diamond League Final in Zurich (8 September /14:30.10) confirmed her defence of the Diamond Trophy and the $40,000 jackpot in the women 3000m/5000m for the second year running to cap the most stellar season in her career.

Monaco disappointment

Following an unbeaten campaign and three World titles, Cheruiyot’s name featured prominently in the annual IAF World Gala awards list where as expected, she made the final-three shortlist in the Female Athlete of the Year Award.

The news was received with a lot of optimism in the Cheruiyot camp with the athlete saying, “There is a big chance I will become the female winner this year but since it’s my first time, I don’t know how the voting goes and if I do not win it, I will work towards returning there next year.”

However, fellow Daegu champion, Sally Pearson, got the nod for the top award, with Cheruiyot feted with the Female Performance of the Year recognition in a decision that was received with uproar back home.

But there was no surprise when she was named the first winner of the Overall Sports Personality of the Year at Kenya’s red carpet SOYA Awards where she shared the stage with World marathon record holder, Patrick Makau who bagged the Sportsman of the Year Award.

“It’s so wonderful, these SOYA Awards have made me happy, since when I was in Monaco I was so disappointed and I kept asking why they did this to me since when I went there, I automatically knew, I would be the World Athlete of the Year,” the Daegu 5,000m and 10,000m winner said.

Cheruiyot welcomed 2012 with a second finish at the Seville IAAF Permit Cross Country meet (Jan 15) where she was led to the line by Masai.

“My main target remains the Olympics. I will not feature at the Africa Cross Country or many events so that I can reserve all my shape for the Olympics where I hope to win another double.”

London Olympics double charge

After initially refraining from officially declaring ambitions to go for another distance double at the 2012 London Games, where gold success could open new frontiers for her as the first runner from her nation to reach that peak, Cheruiyot formally broadcast on 12 June she was up for the challenge.

She had just completed a tactical 32:24:52 win at the Kenyan women 10,000m Trial in Nairobi.

"Yes, I will go for the double. I still have a month and two weeks to train for the Olympics Games, so I will be ready. I know everybody is training hard and I will also train hard because I know we will meet with those ladies from Ethiopia and my teammates as well.

"I will try my level best to bring something good for the country. I have a week to rest before the 5000m Trial and I will be there as well," the African and Commonwealth titleholder told IAAF post race.

With a resurgent double Beijing champion, Tirunesh bouncing back to rich form, Cheruiyot, who had extended her unbeaten streak on the track with her two opening Diamond League races in Doha (3000m/8:46.44/11 May) and Rome (5000m/14:35.62/WL/31 May) when she stopped arch-rival Meseret on both occasions, charged she was not cowed by the ‘Baby Faced Destroyer’.

“I have no fear of Dibaba or Meseret Defar since we have to race together and I’m ready for them since I have run against them in the past,” she braved inviting an enticing prospect of a showdown that could go down distance running folklore in London.

Off the track

Cheruiyot is happily married to Moses Kiplagat, a former runner who is her personal coach. Unlike most of the women from Kenya’s Rift Valley, the Pocket Rocket decided to scale the heights in her career before settling down to establishing a family.

The couple live in their beautifully manicured maisonette in Korkitony (near Eldoret) with interests in real estate, farming and transport businesses in Eldoret, Nairobi and rural home.

In an uninhibited display of affection, her spouse received one of the most passionate kisses from her jubilant partner at the Mixed Zone after she clinched her double in Daegu.

 “There is nothing much we did. We just took her training programme and added an extra distance, a kilometre or two in the long run and between 400m and 600m on the track. I have to give her the credit, she is so focused on training and keeps setting targets,” Kiplagat disclosed how she attained her shape.

Cheruiyot returned the compliments: “I love my husband since he understands what I need to be successful. He helps me in training and is always there for me at home. We wake up together at 5 am for training and when we are done, he then takes care of our businesses, leaving me to focus on my career,” she gushed.

Then looking into his eyes, Cheruiyot added, “To get such a man who understands what a successful woman needs is hard, but I’m grateful to have him and that is why I embraced him when I saw him after winning the 5000m  in the crowded mixed zone.”

“Both of my gold medals in Daegu were special, I can place none above the other. Before I decided I was going to double, I was already set and decided to go out and try my best. Many had tried to do it before, I believed I could make it and I thank God,” she stated.

On her searing last lap kick she has perfected since winning her first World title in Berlin two years ago, Cheruiyot disclosed, “That is a natural kick and hard training. When I’m training, I train knowing I must have a fast quick lap. At a final, it is a last act, at the finish line, there is always something waiting and since everyone prepares for the last kick and you have to be the best.”

Having amassed a fortune that would propel her to a jet set lifestyle in the course of her career, with flashy cars, designer wear et al being part of the repertoire, Cheruiyot and her spouse only allow themselves simple luxuries.

“I love nature and wildlife and a visit to Tsavo or Meru National Parks would be welcome,” as she threw suggestive glances at her spouse.

Amid the humble village folk with whom she shares an address, the illustrious company of the 2010 World Cross champion, Joseph Ebuya and Daegu marathon silver winner, Vincent Kiprop, are among fellow athletes in close proximity.

“When we are at home, she plays the wife,” Kiplagat said during a visit to their welcoming home as her spouse proceeded to pour him a cup of tea. “We leave matters to do with the sport outside and to be with such a famous wife, it means you must be prepared to be her support since there many are out to mislead such talent. My work is to make her remain focused.”

“I have to sacrifice a lot to play the role of husband and coach without making either come in the way.”

Honours and citations

Besides a medal and trophy cabinet that is bursting at the seams, Cheruiyot was conferred the Order of Grand Warrior (OGW) State honour by the country’s President, Dr. Mwai Kibaki, to mark the nation’s 46th birthday on 12 December, 2009, following her epic triumph in Berlin, where she became the first Kenyan runner to ascend to the 5,000m women’s title.  

She has since been promoted to the rank of Inspector at Kenya Police Force where she serves and on 3 January 2012, she was named the Female Athlete of the Year by US Track and Field Magazine, before being decorated as Laureus Female Athlete of the Year on 7 February, a high accolade that went some way in wiping away her Monaco heartache.

Cheruiyot was voted by the Laureus World Sports Academy members of 47 of the greatest sportsmen and sportswomen of all time that includes Kenya’s legend Kipchoge Keino and became the first Kenya woman and only the second ever sportsperson from her country after the former to win an individual decoration at the premier awards.

Personal Bests

1500m: 4:06.65 (2007)

3000m: 8:28.66 (2007)

5000m: 14:20.87 (2011)

10,000m: 30:48.98 (2011)

10km:   31:07 (2010)

Indoors

3000m: 8:30.53 (2009)

Yearly Progression

3000m: 1999 - 9:04.42; 2002 - 9:21.94; 2005 - ; 2006 - 8:38.86; 2007 - 8:28.66; 2008 - 8:33.66, 2009-8:30.61; 2010-8:34.58; 2011-8:38.67; 2012- 8:46.44

5000m:  1999 - 15:42.79; 2000 - 15:11.11; 2001 - 15:59.4; 2002 - 15:49.7; 2003 - 15:44.8; 2004 - 15:13.26; 2005 -; 2006 - 14:47.43; 2007- 14:22.51; 2008 - 14:25.43; 2009 - 14:37.01; 2010- 14:27.41: 2011-14:20.87; 2012- 14:35.62

10,000m: 2011-30:48.98; 2012- 32:24:52A

Career Highlights

1998              5th            World Cross Country Championships (junior)

1999               2nd             World Cross Country Championships (junior)

1999              3rd             All Africa Games (5000m)

2000              1st              World Cross Country Championships (junior)

2000            14th            Olympic Games (5000m)

2001               4th            World Cross Country Championships (junior)

2001               1st             African Junior Championships (5000m)

2002              3rd             World Cross Country Championships (junior)

2002              3rd             World Junior Championships (5000m)

2003               5th             World Cross Country Championships (4km)

2004              8th             World Cross Country Championships (4km)

2006               8th            World Cross Country Championships (4km)

2006               3rd             World Athletics Final (3000m)

2006               5th             World Athletics Final (5000m)

2007              8th             World Cross Country Championships (8km)

2007              2nd             World Championships (5000m)

2007              1st             World Athletics Final (5000m)

2007              2nd             World Athletics Final (3000m)

2008               5th             Olympic Games (5000m)

2008               2nd             World athletics Final (3000m)

2008               2nd             World Athletics Final (5000m)

2009              1st            World Championships (5000m)

2009              2nd            World Athletics Final (3000m)

2009              3rd            World Athletics Final (5000m)

2010               2nd           World Indoor Championships (3000m)

2010               1st      African Athletics Championships (5000m)

2010                1st      Diamond League Race Final Standings (5000m)           

2010                1st      Continental Cup (5000m)           

2010                1st      Commonwealth Games (5000m)

2011              1st            World Cross Country Championships

2011              1st            World Championships (5000m)

2011              1st            World Championships (10000m)

2011              1st            Diamond League Race Final Standings (3000m/5000m)           

Prepared by James Wokabi and Mutwiri Mutuota for the IAAF ‘Focus on Athletes’ project. Copyright IAAF 2008-2012.