It is worth having a look at the medal table after day one in Daegu, because it is quite unique and shows only one line: Kenya, whose long distance runners took all six medals available on Saturday. This was probably one of the best days in Kenyan athletics history. And one woman, who contributed decisively to the success, is Vivian Cheruiyot.
The 27-year-old took the 10,000m gold in convincing style with a personal best of 30:48.98. And she could well become one of the big stars of the World Championships if she is able to collect a second gold and defend her title at 5000m.
“I am really proud of what we did today. We have achieved something extraordinary for Kenya,” said Cheruiyot, who had also won the World Cross Country Championships’ gold earlier in the year.
The mental preparation could not have been any better for her and her fellow Kenyan 10,000m runners, who all placed right behind her in second, third and fourth positions. In the morning Kenyan women had dominated the marathon, taking all three medals as well. “Of course we all watched that race this morning,” said Vivian Cheruiyot. “And we were really inspired by our marathon runners doing so exceptionally well and achieving a unique result. We were really so happy and impressed that we said to ourselves that we have to continue this amazing success in the evening.”
Additionally Cheruiyot is sure that the motivation for the other Kenyan runners will now be even bigger. And she promises: “Tomorrow I will come to the stadium and cheer on our runners in the men’s 10,000m final. They can win this one as well.”
Amazingly Cheruiyot only turned to the 10,000m for the first time this year. She won her debut in Pontevedra (Spain) in spring, then took the Kenyan trials in July and now became World champion. So she collected three wins from three races. It was at 5000m where she had achieved major success in recent years. In Osaka in 2007 she was second and then she took gold in Berlin 2009. Additionally Cheruiyot is the African and Commonwealth Champion at his distance.
Cheruiyot had started running seriously at age twelve. Her talent was then discovered by Kenyan coach David Maiyo who arranged for her to compete at the national Cross Country trials in 1997. After winning those Vivian Cheruiyot trained with the national team for the World Championships, but she was not selected because she was too young. But there were plenty of international races to come for her in the future. Already a year later she did make it to the global cross country championships and finished fifth. She continued to collect a silver (1999), a gold (2000) and a bronze medal (2002) as a junior in this event. Her first major win at senior level then was in Berlin in 2009.
Cheruiyot is coached by her husband, Kiplagat Kirui who was also a runner, but not on the international level. The couple lives in Eldoret but for training they go to Kaptagat. So far Cheruiyot has done relatively little mileage considering that she now is a 10,000m runner.
“In the built-up to the World Championships she ran around 50 kilometres per week. We do a mixture of track and road training,” explained Kirui, who accompanies his wife to the races. After the World Championships they will go to Zürich, where Cheruiyot will run the 5000m.
But first she will concentrate on winning a second gold medal in Daegu.
“I now have time to relax from the 10,000m race and then jog a bit before starting my title defence on Tuesday. I think I can win this race as well. The 10,000 metre gold is a huge motivation for me.”
Should she succeed, she would become only the second woman after Tirunesh Dibaba (Ethiopia) to take these two gold medals at a World Championship. “I am always trying to chase history,” said Cheruiyot, talkative and confident with her English language skills.
For the next couple of years she plans to keep focused on the track races. “One day I will move on to the marathon. But that can take five or six more years. Then the youngsters will come and beat me at 5,000 metres. So I will then have to switch to the marathon.”
Asked about what sort of times will be possible in the future on the track, Cheruiyot replied, “Maybe in a couple of years it will be possible to run 14:00 minutes for 5,000 metres. Perhaps I will be the one to do it, but there could also be others. Regarding the 10,000 metres World record I think this one is quite far away. But I would not say it is out of reach.”
Jörg Wenig for the IAAF