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Updated 10 July 2010
Mercy CHERONO, Kenya (3000m/Cross Country)
Born: 7 May 1991, Kipajit Location, Sotik Division, Kericho District, Rift Valley Province
Manager: Mark Hussein
First born in a family of five
Attended Chelimo Primary School then joined Saseta Secondary School in Letein where she is a Form 3 (third year) student.
Widely regarded as the most talented female running prodigy anywhere, Cherono is seeking to add more glitter to her medal cabinet that is bulging with a collection of ‘bling’ won as a junior runner.
In her swansong year in the junior ranks, Cherono started 2010 in blistering fashion during the Bydgoszcz World Cross and now has set her sights on the World Junior Championships in Moncton, Canada.
Cherono holds the 2007 World Youth and 2008 World Junior 3,000m titles and, after missing out the Edinburgh World Cross party through injury, set herself on the path of adding the World Cross title by effortlessly winning the Kenya Trials for Amman in 2009.
In Jordan, however, she was beaten to gold by Genzebe Dibaba, the younger sister of double Olympics champion Tirunesh after she admitted to breaking for the tape a bit too early, allowing the Ethiopian to close the gap and ease past her for victory.
“I will not repeat that mistake again if I find myself in a similar position to last year,” Cherono, who almost missed the 20 February Kenya selection event for Bydgoszcz after injuring her ankle while finishing sixth at the 6th AK National Cross Country Series meeting (19 December) in Kisii, said when she was named in the team for Poland’s 2010 World Cross.
Cherono made her debut for Kenya at the 2007 World Cross Country Championships in Mombasa where she finished 23rd. In the summer she clinched her first international gold by winning the World Youth 3000m title in a personal best time of 8:53.94
Having dominated the 2008 local cross country meetings, Cherono missed the national championships and World Cross Country Trials due to a foot injury. She bounced back to win the national secondary schools 3,000 metres title in a new record of 9:03.0 breaking the previous record set by Hellen Kimaiyo way back in 1985.
She then cruised to victory at the Bydgoszcz World Juniors Trials and confirmed her success at the world event itself before she was selected in the national team for the Commonwealth Youth Games in Pune, India where she returned yet another gold medal performance over 3,000m (9:06.01).
Cherono carried her rich form to the 2008/2009 cross-country season, winning the second KCC/AK National Cross Series weekend meeting in Kericho (19:29.0) and finishing second at Nyahururu (19:30.9) where she was beaten by Amman World Cross teammate, Hilda Chepkemoi.
That was the only time she was led to the tape on the local circuit before Amman. She won the junior 6km race at November’s Wareng Tuskys Cross Country in Eldoret and Nairobi (Provincial Championships) and the Kenyan Trials at Ngong.
After her Amman silver, Cherono was selected to compete in the 3000m race at the African Junior Championships, in Mauritius, after winning the national Trials, and went on to win gold during the event final. She was then asked by her team’s management to compete in the longer 5000m in place of Esther Chemtai who was deemed too young (15 at the time) and Cherono went on to win silver.
That summer, Mercy made her first foray into the European track circuit, setting PBs over 1500m, 2000m and 3000m in Brussels and Rieti.
In 2010, at the World Cross Country Championships in Bydgoszcz, Cherono (18:47) set the record straight when she led her compatriots to seal the perfect ten score with a seven second victory over Purity Cherotich (18:54) with Esther Chemtai (18:55) and Faith Chepng’etich (19:02) trooping across the line to complete the Kenyan 1-2-3-4.
“For one year, the pain of losing to Genzebe was always on my mind and in Poland, I decided to head to the front early to give her and other Ethiopians no chance of catching us on the sprint for the line. What made me happier was the fact that we managed to take all the top places and Amman is now behind me.”
On 23 May, Cherono made her Diamond League debut in Shanghai, slashing almost a full minute off her 5000m PB with 14:47.13, before focusing on the defence of her world junior 3,000m crown. During the 16 June Kenyan Trials for the World Junior/East Africa Junior championships, Cherono once again led Cherotich to the altar with 9:08.0 against 9:11.0, earning selection to Canada.
In Moncton, Cherono hopes to be only the second Kenyan since men 1,500m gold medallist Wilfred Kirochi (in 1986 and 1988), to be crowned twice World Junior champion in successive editions of the biennial event.
Asked about her prospects for the title defence, the coy, prodigious runner shrugged her shoulders and stated, “I hope we finish the way we did at the Trials.”
1500m: 4:13.7 (2009)
2000m: 5:35.65 (2009)
3000m: 8:44.67 (2009)
5000m: 14:47.13 (2010)
3000m/5000m: 2007 – 8:53.94/-; 2008 – 8:58.07/-; 2009 – 8:44.67/15:46.74; 2010 – -/14:47.13
2007 23rd World Cross Country Championships, Mombasa (junior race)
2007 1st World Youth Championships, Ostrava (3,000m)
2008 1st World Junior Championships, Bydgoszcz (3,000m)
2008 1st Commonwealth Youth Games, Pune (3,000m)
2009 2nd World Cross Country Championships (junior race)
2009 1st African Junior Championships (3000m)
2009 2nd African Junior Championships (5000m)
2010 1st World Cross Country Championships, Bydgoszcz (junior race)
Prepared by James Wokabi and Mutwiri Mutuota for the IAAF ‘Focus on Athletes’ project. Copyright IAAF 2008-2010