NAIROBI, March 28 – Despite not racing on track since her school days, World Half Marathon champion Peres Jepchirchir will be inspired by her new crown to upset favourites when Kenya conduct 2016 Olympic Games Trials in July.
Jepchirchir, who overcame unfavorable wet and windy conditions in Cardiff to beat pre-race favourite Mary Wacera in 1:07:34 and win her first international gold medal, will be eying selection in the women’s 10,000m race for Kenya’s team to Rio de Janeiro.
The 22-year-old, who made the announcement on Monday when the triumphant team returned home to a warm reception, is aware of the experienced athletes she will meet in the Trials, in the likes of world champion Vivian Cheruiyot, and believes she will be a difficult opponent to beat.
“I have faith and hope that I will make the team for Olympics. I know there are good athletes but they also use blood like me and although they have experience I will follow them. I’m going to prepare well for it,” Jepchirchir affirmed.
“In the World Half Marathon, I didn’t believe I could win bearing in mind the experience that was in the race including from Ethiopia. Our plan was to work as a team and accelerate the pace when we reach the final kilometers and whoever will be strong takes it as long as we have locked the Ethiopians out of the medal bracket.
“At some point I told my compatriot Cynthia Limo not to give up when the two Ethiopians piled pressure on us. The course was tough since it was not flat but we conquered it,” she added.
As part of her Olympics preparations, she will compete in two road races; Yangzhou Half Marathon in China next month and Otawa 10km.
Jepchirchir, who steered the women’s team to a podium sweep has gradually grown to her fame, having been one of the pace makers at the 2015 London Marathon when she led the field to 25km before Ethiopia’s Tigist Tufa went on to win.
She now added her name to the list of previous Kenyan World Half Marathon winners Tegla Loroupe, Mary Keitany, Florence Kiplagat and Gladys Cherono.
Cynthia Limo, who was out-sprinted on the final straight to cross the line three seconds behind Jepchirchir in a space of 20 seconds, was pleased with the team work that saw Kenya bag the women’s team title for the second year in a row.
“When the team was selected, we were in touch with each other and made a promise to bring all the medals to our country. Of cause each one of us had her individual goals and that is what pushed us. If I get a chance to represent my country to Olympics I will appreciate,” Limo, the reigning Delhi Half Marathon said.
Despite failing to better her 2014 silver medal, Wacera was satisfied with the outcome where she won bronze in 1:07:54, admitting she was under pressure since all the focus was on her.
However, she has moved on swiftly and will be trying her luck on track just like Jepchirchir in the women’s 10,000m.
“From winning silver to bronze for me it’s an achievement clinching two medals in major championships. I’m happy and I can’t complain. I knew there was pressure for me because everyone was expecting me to win gold but in running anything can happen.
“All the five ladies were strong plus the Ethiopians, so I was hoping to do my best which I did because I had a good time. I’m happy for Peres and winning the team title. I’m hoping to win gold in 2018 to finish the podium sweep since I have silver and bronze,” Wacera told Capital Sport.
The 27-year-old added, “I’m hoping to run in 10,000m Trials for Olympics. I will just train and hope for the best. I’m planning to run 10km in New York on May 14 then come prepare for Olympics.”
“I know there are strong athletes who have great history but you never know there is always a new face that comes up,” Wacera, the mother of one daughter underscored.
Head coach Kenya’s great and former world record holder, Catherine Ndereba hailed the team’s performance, outlining it was an honor sharing the experience to the new generation.
“This was a prayer answered. The weather was not favorable but by God’s grace we emerged winners. When Kamworor (Geoffrey) fell down I knew that was just an accident just like any other.
“As a runner, we normally have big hearts and the heart of champion never dies and you cannot say it’s gone until you get to the finish line and that’s what Kamworor portrayed. My prayer was that they don’t trample him down but when he made it I knew he was going to win it,” Ndereba, who was experiencing her first role as a coach explained.
“When I saw the two Ethiopians closing on our girls, I didn’t panic because I knew my athletes are well trained and they had all the capability to overcome.”
“It means a lot to me being my first trip as a coach and seeing the team that I have led winning it tells me that I didn’t only get success but I have another team that is following my steps,” the four-time Boston Marathon winner said.
The star of the day Geoffrey Kamworor, who defended the men’s title, did not travel back with the team as he connected to Holland to see a doctor after getting bruises on his knees when he was tripped down on the start. He is expected to arrive on Wednesday.
Silver medalist Bedan Karoki also did not come back with the team as he attend and an invitation from American sports apparel manufacturer from Nike.