Milcah Chemos in Rome takes another Steeplechase victory (Giancarlo Colombo) © Copyright
General News Rome, Italy

Chemos aiming for much more than World or Olympic bronze – Samsung Diamond League

Milcah Chemos never realised the advice she took from her husband Alex Sang to take up running and then seriously three years ago would turn her into the World's leading 3000 metres steeplechaser.

Chemos again reiterated she will be the woman to beat at the IAAF World Championships in Daegu, Korea (27 Aug to 4 Sep) in three months’ time when on Thursday night (26) in Rome in her second Samsung Diamond League outing of the season, she again thrashed her rivals.

The 25-year-old, who last year won the inaugural Diamond Race Trophy for her event, in Rome having led since pacemaker fellow Kenyan Lydiah Chepkurui dropped out with 3 1/2 laps remaining, and with a speedy final circuit produced the first of seven world season leads which were achieved in the Italian capital on Thursday.

Chemos, loudly cheered by a massive crowd of over 47,000 Romans, although lowering her previous lead of 9:16:44 which she posted at the opening Samsung Diamond League meeting in Doha (6 May), expressed frustration with her winning time of 9:12.89.

The reigning Commonwealth champion whose personal best is 9:08.57, and who clinched victory ahead of Sofia Assefa (Ethiopian record of 9:15.04) and Tunisia's Habiba Ghribi (9:20.33), said: "Yes I was confident I was going to win but I was planning to run under 9:10.”

"But I didn't make it even though it was fast for the first kilometre (3:01.47) and I liked running at that pace. But we lost it on the second (kilometre) and when I went to the front I picked it up in the last 1000m."

The world's sixth fastest ever performer, added, "I was slightly worried and didn't know what to expect when there were three of us together at the bell and particularly of Ghribi who hadn't run a steeplechase this year.”

"But I had plenty in reserve and on the last lap I felt very strong and managing to pull clear down the back-straight tried desperately to get under 9:10. I didn't but I know it will come."

Chemos admitted she believed her intention might have been achieved and even her lifetime best might have been smashed if World record holder Gulnara Samitova-Galkina (the Russian who she denied the World Championships bronze medal in Berlin in 2009), had taken part in Thursday’s race.

The reigning Olympic champion who missed the 2010 season for family reasons, was a very late withdrawal from the Compeed Golden Gala meeting in a comeback which would have been her first steeplechase competition since that Berlin disappointment.

Chemos her eyes lighting up and with a big beaming smile when recalling how she caused one of the biggest surprises at the Berlin Championships after only taking up steeplechasing four months earlier, said: "Yes, I  will always remember that last lap (in Berlin) and particularly when I overtook her and she didn't come back."

The tiny African champion added about the only woman to have run faster than nine minutes (8:58.81 to win the 2008 Beijing Olympic title):  "I was hoping to run with her here but at the last minute I heard she had dropped out."

Then with a mischievous glance and with the prospect of future head-to-head races before Daegu, said: "I don't know why - I was really waiting for her."

Chemos admitted: "I don't think I can run under nine minutes at the moment, maybe, but not for now.  What is most important for me is the Kenyan National Championships and qualifying for the World Championships and my next Diamond League race in New York."

Back from illness and confident for Daegu

She admits to being confident about Daegu, and rightly so after not having finished lower than second place in her last 13 steeplechases, although knowing nothing can be taken for granted after losing out to Russia's Yuliya Zarudneva in last September's IAAF/VTB Bank Continental Cup.

But Chemos quickly bounced back to end her season on another very high note when leading fellow countrywomen Mercy Njorege and Gladys Kipkemboi to a clean sweep of the medals at the following month's Commonwealth Games.

Chemos is also very relieved that she had bounced back from a bout of sickness earlier in the year which restricted her to only two cross country performances on the winter's European Cross Country circuit in San Sebastian and Caceres.

"I had typhoid and malaria and it took time to recover," she said. "Now I am alright, my recovery and my training as well as my victories have shown."

Chemos deeply religious, insisted: "I thank God for all of my success and the people in the village where I live for their support. They always stop me and congratulate me on how well I have performed."

Her eyes on Daegu and despite her early season superiority, she said: "World gold? The race is wide open but I think I can get the gold medal."

That ambition and the following year's London Olympic Games mean it unlikely there will be another family addition to join the daughter Lavina that she and Alex brought into the world in 2007 - at least for the moment.

I don't think about it," she admitted, "but maybe later. I'm not planning anything until after the Olympics. I have never been to an Olympics but I hope to next year...come home with the gold medal." Then emphasising her friendship with her fellow Kenyans, she understatedly said: "I know my people will be happy."

Now a prolific financial earner with her successes in major Championships and the Samsung Diamond League, Chemos doesn't wish to reveal how she spends her well-deserved income. Another massive smile. "That's my secret!" she said before jumping on a bus and heading off to Rome’s Leonardo Da Vinci airport.

Dave Martin for the IAAF