Experience counts for Cheruiyot
Report from Junior Women Race
18 March 2000 - Vilamoura, Portugal - Vivian Cheruiyot was the youngest member of the Kenyan team when she first appeared at the IAAF World Cross Country Championships in 1998 and she used all the experience gained after competing in Marrakech and then Belfast to strike gold in Vilamoura.
Although she took the silver medal last year, Cheruiyot had been overlooked in the pre-race predictions with most of the pundits opting for last year's defending champion Werknesh Kidane, of Ethiopia, or Cheruiyot's compatriot Alice Timbilili -- who last year was not only the Kenyan senior 10,000 champion on the track but won the IAAF World Youth 3,000 title.
With the pressure off Cheruiyot prospered, gauging her race to perfection with a finishing surge that left Timbilili and another Kenyan Viola Kibiwot having to settle for the silver and bronze medals respectively.
"I've been training very well at the a training camp at Kaptagat, where I've been since January -- I was beaten by Kidane last year but before the race I was dreaming I was going to win," Cheruiyot said.
Timbilili -- the unofficial spokesman for the trio of Kenyan juniors -- admitted that although she had been consistently beaten by Cheruiyot in their highly-competitive training sessions and soi was not disappointed with the silver medal despite the high level of expectations placed on her young shoulders.
The victory on the Algarve finally gave Cheruiyot her first ever gold medal to hang around her neck after her own silver medal from last year and two team silver medals.
"I can go to at least two more world cross country championships as a junior so know I would like two more gold medals," Cheruiyot added boldly.
Audacious early bids for glory were made by Uganda's Catherine Webombesa, who was to drift back to 58th, and South Africa's Yolandi Neuhaus, who fared better and came home 16th, but it was Japan's Rina Fujioka who lead the field at the end of the first circuit of three circuits. Behind Fujioka, a phalanx of five Kenyans was amassing, joined by two Ethiopian runners and another Ugandan.
On the second circuit the Kenyans took control and although it was Fridah Domongole Chepkemei who nominally had the lead on the second circuit there was nothing to choose between her and the rest of the team.
On the final lap it was every woman for herself and over the final Kilometre Cheruiyot kicked hard to leave Timbilili and their compatriots trailing in her wake.
The clean sweep of the individual medals meant that Kenya comfortably regained the team title they have won nine of the 12 years the junior women's race has been run but which they have ceded to Ethiopia for the last two years.
"For us it was very important to take the team title back. There is great pride in Kenya in winning the team competitions and we had been aiming to get back this particular honour," Timbilili added.
To emphasis their continent's domination of long distance running, especially in the junior ranks, Africans occupied all the top ten places.