23 MAR 2002 General News

Kibiwott finds it tough to retain title

Kibiwott finds it tough to retain title
Phil Minshull for the IAAF
23 March 2002 – Dublin, Ireland - Kenya's Viola Kibiwott carved her own place in cross country history when she successfully defended the junior women's world title she won 12 months ago in the Belgian city of Ostend. Until Kibiwott struggled across the line at the Leopardstown racecourse, no other runner had managed to win the title twice during the 14 year history of the race, which was introduced into the IAAF World Cross Country Championships in 1989.

The runner her fellow Kenyans once called 'Kadogo' - shrimp in Swahili - in relation to her short stature, showed that now she might be more appropriately called Simba - lion - as she demonstrated that had the heart of one of the big cat's who populate the game parks of her native country.

Not only did she hold off the challenge of Ethiopia's Tirunesh Dibaba, she successfully defied a swirling wind which was at it's worst during the opening race of on the programme. "The wind was very strong and the hill up to the finish was very tough. I was struggling all the way through the line and in many respects it was worse than last year when we had to wade through mud. But I'm happy to have made history," said the timid Kibiwott.

"Otherwise this was a lovely cross country course but I really suffered in the final kilometre," she added.

Kibiwott crossed the line in 20 minutes 13 second, just one second ahead of Dibaba, a cousin of the multiple world champion on different surfaces Derartu Tulu.

Fifteen women went through the halfway point of the 6,190 metres race but a Kenyan quintet started to push the pace in the fourth kilometre and the leading pack soon dwindled to nine, including Yugoslavia's Snezana Kostic, who was to finish 8th as the leading runner from outside of Kenya and Ethiopia.

Going into the final 1,500 metres Kibiwott and her compatriots, 2000 world junior champion Vivian Cheruiyot along with Fridah Domongole and Peninh Chepchumba increased the pace even more and only Dibaba could hang on.

Dibaba briefly took the lead with 200 metres to go and it looked momentarily as though the Kenya's well-orchestrated team tactics had failed but Kibiwott had enough left in the tank to swerve round her Rift Valley rival and stay in front, even though she faced an agonising uphill crawl towards the finish line when both Kibiwott and Dibaba looked to have lead in their legs.

"I'm very disappointed that I could not catch Viola. I did everything that I could and I thought that would be enough to win today. The course suited me and even though there was a strong wind, that was not a problem. But I'm young enough to run in this race for the next two years, so hopefully my day will come," said a downcast Dibaba, who picked up a second silver medal as Ethiopia finished as runners up behind Kenya in the team competition.

Lead home by Kibiwott, and with Cheruiyot picking up the individual bronze medal, Kenya packed their scoring four women into the first five places, to regain the honour they had won in 2000. Japan picked up the team bronze medals for the fifth successive year.