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Queen Cheruiyot reigns supreme

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DAEGU, South Korea, September 2- Vivian Cheruiyot arrived for the Daegu World Championships with a promise to deliver two distance gold medals and on Thursday, delivered her second in emphatic fashion as she held on to her women 5000m crown.

Cheruiyot, who turns 28 in a week’s time (September 11) gave herself the ideal birthday present and moulded her place in her nation’s history by becoming the first Kenyan runner to win two titles at the same gathering of the world’s elite track and field.

A 58.6 last-lap crowned Cheruiyot’s ascendancy as she stopped the timer at 14:55.36 for gold before embarking on a rapturous celebration that was sealed by an adoring kiss to husband and trainer, Moses Kiplagat Kirui, who endured a 30-minute wait before the intimate moment at the mixed zone.

“We had planned to work as a team but I knew I was strong enough to deliver what I promised Kenyans. Now, I’m so happy, so excited, the best I have ever felt and I thank God, my husband and all Kenyans for the support and I dedicate this to them,” Cheruiyot, whose radiant smile had extra shine said.

And as the Kenyan team continues to outdo itself here, the imminent threat to cows was again announced as her partner outlined his feelings.

“For sure, some cows have to be slaughtered to celebrate her achievement when she returns home. From last year, we planned she would do the double and we adjusted our programme to add just a little bit more to her 5000m training.

“But above all, the work she put into getting to this shape is unbelievable. You just have to look at her training to see what effort she put in and at this moment, I cannot describe how I feel, I’m not even in this world, it’s so great,” Kiplagat added.

As Cheruiyot turned to see who would have the privilege of becoming her bridesmaid, her face lit-up when teammate and friend, Silvia Kibet, caught up with great Ethiopian rival and former world champion, Meseret Defar, who was running out of steam to nick silver in 14:56.21 a breath from the line.

“I’m so happy, I was not expecting to win silver since with Vivian and Defar in the race, I knew they had better shape but with 150m to go, I noticed she was tiring and I had some strength left so I caught up with her and got silver.

“I will celebrate this since I have now won silver twice and this gives me great motivation to go for gold next year and run my personal best. I congratulate Vivian, she has shown her she is almost super human but we are so proud as a country,” the silver winner who repeated her performance from Berlin enthused.

The women 5000m 1-2 took the country’s medal tally to five gold, four silver and three bronze, already surpassing the best ever haul of 5-3-5 achieved at the Osaka World Championships in 2007.

Meseret came home in 14:56.94 for the third medal, a scant consolation for a country that has dominated distance running in recent years as compatriot Sentayehu Ejigu (14:59.99) led the Kenyan pair of Mercy Cherono (15:00.23) and Linet Masai (15:01.01), the 10,000m bronze winner, to seal the top six.

Japan’s Hitomi Niiya led the race through the first 1000m with the clock reading 3:02.10 before the next 1000m was covered in 3:05.10, this time with Russia’s Yelena Zadorozhnaya at the front as the pace slackened to almost a stroll.

In following in their internal pre-race discussions, Masai made the first charge to the front as the Kenyans laid down the hammer but it was more a test the waters tactic than an assault.

Having waited patiently enough among the pack, Cheruiyot owned the race with 2000m to go and went through the last kilometre mark in 12:13.60 but the chasing hound were still within touching distance.

At the bell, she shifted through the gears in a sustained breakaway, with Defar for company but as they came for the final bend, she deployed the afterburners to stop at the line a double world champion.

“We had planned to do like in 10,000m and take the first four positions but the heat proved to be too much, I will now go and focus on revising for my KCSE (Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education) exams, I had carried books to read here,” Cherono, a world junior champion in 3000m who faces the national examiner in November at Ngariet Secondary School in Sotik, said.

But the moment truly belongs to the champion, who despite her tiny frame, packs enough power in her lungs to take on and obliterate the competition.

“I’m so happy after becoming only the second woman after Tirunesh Dibaba to win two distance gold medals and I want to go for more.”

The opposition, be warned.

-Mutwiri Mutuota is reporting for Capital Sport from Daegu, South Korea

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