When Edwin Cheruiyot Soi broke from the men's 5000m pack on the second day of the IAAF / VTB Bank World Athletics Final, with kickers like Eliud Kipchoge and Sileshi Sihine already in full flight, it was a replay of the previous day's 3000m: another blistering finish for Soi, another victory where in 2006 he had been runner-up, and another warning to the Ethiopians that they are no longer assured of having the fastest kick on the track.
The 21-year-old Soi showed he had learned the lessons of 2006 in both races this weekend in Stuttgart. In 2006, where Soi had the misfortune of twice finishing second to a Bekele, he had taken a turn at the front somewhere in the race. This year, things would be different.
"These are my new tactics," he explained.
"I was worried today, because I knew I would be running against many strong athletes who did not race yesterday," said Soi. "In Zürich, I took the pace with two laps to go," and then finished second. Soi's only wins in 2007, before Stuttgart, were at a 10km road race in Marseille and on the track at 5000m in Lausanne. So in Stuttgart he trusted his speed instead, along with the psychological recharge of a trip to his hometown of Kericho in Kenya.
"After Rieti," where he placed third in the 3000m, "I went back to Kenya, not to train, but just to pray." The trip restored his confidence and allowed him to come to Stuttgart telling himself he would be a winner. "After yesterday's race, I thought God had answered my prayer."
Soi claims his sharp finishing speed is a result of natural talent, and not special training, but in a discipline where races are measured in laps, Soi is quite proud of his half-lap best: 22 seconds for 200m, he claims.
After a decade where the major championships have been dominated by fast-kicking Ethiopians, however, Soi represents a Kenyan response, just as the Ethiopian closing speed represented an answer to the surging tactics of the Kenyans.
Soi, however, is only looking forward one year. "I'd like to make the Olympic team," he says. Soi's best times at both 5000m (12.52.40) and 10,000m (27.14:83) came in 2006, a non-championship year, so the relatively young (21) Soi has yet to represent Kenya at any event other the World Cross Country Championships.
Improving on that record, however, will be far from easy even for the speedy Soi. "That will take a lot more prayer," he admits.
Parker Morse for the IAAF
Click here for Event by Event Reports from Stuttgart