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Nairobi, KenyaShe hardly engaged second gear but the quality possessed by double Daegu Worlds champion Vivian Cheruiyot was enough to ensure she sealed her place in the London 2012 women 10,000m by winning the Kenyan Trial on Friday (15).
The 'Pocket Rocket’ as Cheruiyot is known, did not require to deploy her famed last-lap blasters as a patient measured kick proved to be enough to hold off the spirited challenge of All Africa Games silver medallist, Joyce Chepkurui (32:24.71) for victory in 32:24.52 with enough gas left in the tank.
Joining them in London will be Daegu Worlds silver medallist, Sally Kipyego who was pushed back to third (32:26.82) as the 25-lap bronze winner in South Korea and world champion in 2009, Linet Masai, folded out of the race with four laps to go to become the high profile casualty of the Trial.
Cheruiyot completes first phase of double assault
Having declined to authoritatively state she would go for the double in London, Cheruiyot, who had to be taken to the physiotherapist after the race to seek relief to a nagging strain confirmed she would seek top honours in both 5000m and 10,000m after completing what in the end, was a routine victory.
"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," Cheruiyot said post race, hardly having broken sweat.
For a race with such depth of quality, it was disappointing for the purist expecting a furious battle for London tickets to unfold as the main protagonists spent the opening 18 laps engaged in a numbing game of hidden poker where no one was intent on laying down the hammer.
With seven laps to the finish, a leading pack of nine had formed and Masai, the Berlin champion decided to up the pace by nosing ahead.
Japan based Sally Chepyego, Cheruiyot, Kipyego, Chepkurui, Berlin Marathon champion, Florence Kiplagat, Priscah Jepleting (fourth Daegu), Doris Chengeiywo (Military Games champion), Boston Marathon winner, Sharon Cherop and Caroline Kilel, her predecessor were in the leading bunch.
Two laps later, Cheruiyot moved alongside the leader with Kiplagat in third, Chepkurui, fourth and Kipyego fifth as the speed slightly picked up.
400m later, there was no sight of Masai as Chepkurui took the lead with Cheruiyot and Kiplagat in close attendance and at the bell, the Daegu double gold medallist moved ahead and re-enacted her victory over Ethiopia’s Meseret Defar over 3000m in the opening Diamond League meeting in Doha.
Without tearing away from the spirited competitor, Cheruiyot just maintained nothing more than a stride advantage as she romped home victorious with Chepkurui, who shocked herself with her performance, breathing down her neck.
"My aim was to make sure I have energy for 5000m. In my head, when I saw I was among the top two, I relaxed. The second and third finishers are strong and we are capable of repeating what we did in Daegu last year.
"The return of Tirunesh Dibaba does not scare me. I have no fear of Dibaba or Meseret Defar since we have to race together. You never know what will happen but they are the same people we race together," Cheruiyot said of the chances of Kenya repeating the Daegu podium sweep as well as the return to form of double Olympics champion, Tirunesh Dibaba of Ethiopia.
For Chepkurui, who was relegated to the All Africa Games squad after failing to secure a Worlds place at last year’s Trials, securing the second automatic slot for London left her breathless.
"When I woke up this morning, I did not expect to qualify for the Olympics. I was targeting for the top three but after competing at the All Africa Games, this is a dream come true.
"With Vivian and Sally (Kipyego) in the race, I was scared since they are so tough but after returning to Maputo, I worked hard to improve on my speed work and that is why I went in front with four laps to go so that I could get a chance. All what I can dream of now is winning a medal in London and learning from my teammates who are my heroes," the soft-spoken self-coached athlete based in Iten, offered.
Having finished second at the Prefontaine Classic in Eugene, Kipyego who was a shade disappointed with third place performance was nonetheless elated to get the Olympics ticket.
"Last year, I spent most of my training here and I was able to master the altitude and win an automatic place to the World Championships. As a Nike athlete, I had to compete in Oregon and the two weeks I have been here are not enough for me to adapt to the conditions," the Oregon-based graduate nurse said.
"My confidence is high after winning silver last year. I respect the other women but I’m not afraid of them, that is the motivation I got from Daegu. That is easy on your mind knowing that you can compete with them," she added.
She also confirmed she would try to earn selection in the 5000m for the double in London.
"I have no other race for a month so yes, I will be there. In running, you might never know what can happen and one day, it will be my turn to be in the middle of the podium," Kipyego further explained.
The Trials will be on 23 June at the Nyayo National Stadium with qualifiers set for June 21 at the same venue.
Jelimo wary of Magiso threat
The women’s 10,000m Olympics selection race was the showpiece of the two-day Kenyan National Championships that wrapped on Friday.
With a meet watered down by the forthcoming Trials next week, there was little to capture interest but a 52.1 performance by Olympics women 800m champion, Pamela Jelimo in the women lap race heats on Day 1 turned heads.
"I have come here to race in 400m to improve on my finishing. You all saw what happened in Rome and although I believe in my shape, I must improve on my speed," she said alluding to the defeat by Ethiopia’s sensation, Fantu Magiso at the Samsung Diamond League Golden Gala in Rome.
The Beijing winner admitted her loss to Magiso was an eye opener as she continues scaling the heights after two seasons blighted by injury.
"It’s very interesting that she is here with us but I’m focusing on running my own race. What happened in 2008 is gone and the first thing is to work hard to ensure I make the Olympics team at the Trials next week," she added.
Mutwiri Mutuota (Capital FM) for IAAF
Women’s 10,000m Olympic Trials Results:
1. Vivian Cheruiyot, Kenya Police 32:24.52 2. Joyce Chepkirui, Admin. Police 32:24.71 3. Sally Kipyego, Individual 32:26.82 4. Florence Kiplagat, Kenya Police 32:27.54 5. Priscah Jepleting, North Rift 32:38.29 6. Betsy Saina, Nairobi 32:46.81 7. Margaret Akai, North Rift 32:47.67 8. Dorris Changeiywo, Defence Forces 32:52.11 9. Sharon Cherop, Defence Forces 32:59.1 10.Caroline Kilel, South Rift 33:10.2