She may be just turning seventeen and left with two more years in her junior career, but Kenyan runner Veronica Nyaruai’s achievements both on and off the track are enough to make more illustrious runners green with envy.
With the earnings of her World Junior cross country silver from Fukuoka, Japan in April, the Nyandarua-born runner built a house for her parents and is the darling of her parents. “Yes they are very proud of me,” she confirmed minutes after crossing the line to win the women’s 3000m race at the 11th IAAF World Junior Championships in Beijing, China.
On the global scale, Nyaruai’s reputation as one of the stars of the future is strengthening by the race. In Beijing, the 18-year-old runner took another major step in her pursuit to emulate her role models Catherine Ndereba and Paul Tergat by winning the 3000m.
“I am delighted about my achievement,” she said. “I am proud of it. I have been training well and so the victory is well deserved.”
She came into the championships as one of the runners to beat after winning the World Youth title at the same distance in Marrakesh last year. She finished second in the junior race in each of the last two editions of the World cross country championships first to Ethiopian Gelete Burka and then to compatriot Pauline Chemning Korikwiang.
Over the track, she ran a personal best of 4:08.21 for the 1500m in the IAAF Super Grand Prix meet in Doha and won the trails for Beijing comfortably in Nairobi competing over the 5000m.
Despite her 5000m results in the trails, Nyaruai says that she wanted to compete over the 3000m. “I love running the 3000m more than any distance,” she says. “I also like running the 1500m, but 3000m is my favourite event.”
With the Beijing race again run in conservative fashion, Nyaruai showed the poise of a runner who has done it many times before overtaking Korikwiang to a powerful victory. In effect, she revenged her defeat to the 18-year-old from Fukuoka earlier this year, although she admits that retaliation was the last thing in her mind.
“Pauline beat me in Fukuoka and it was OK because she was the better athlete now,” she says. “It is not about revenge. Almost always, the best athlete will win.”
Now that she has completed the perfect transition from youth to junior competition, Nyaruai has already set herself very specific goals in years ahead.
“I want to return to Beijing and win 5000m gold after two years,” she says with any hint of flinching. “I want to win Olympic gold. That is my biggest dream.”
Elshadai Negash for the IAAF