NAIROBI, Kenya, Aug 20 – Two-time world champion Vivian Cheruiyot rained on Ethiopian Almaz Ayana’s bid for an Olympic distance double, kicking with two laps to run to seal gold in the women’s 5000m and leading compatriot Hellen Obiri to a Kenyan 1-2 finish in Rio.
Cheruiyot who was condemned to silver by Ayana in the women’s 10,000m, stormed to an Olympic Record of 14:26.17 ahead of compatriot Obiri who announced her debut in 5000m in style, clocking a personal best of 14:29.77 to take home silver.
Almaz, 24, had won the 10,000m in world record time last week and had been expected to complete the 10,000m and 5,000m double, but she had to contend for bronze in 14:33.59.
Ayana, the reigning 5,000m world champion was overhauled in the final 2,000m by Cheruiyot and Obiri, to see her become the first Kenyan woman to win the event.
“It’s my fourth Olympics and I hadn’t had gold. Today I said ‘I am not going to lose’,” she said.
Other Kenyan in the race Commonwealth Games champion Mercy Cherono finished fourth in 14:42.89.
Japan’s Miyuki Uehara set the early pace at the Olympic Stadium, Ayana sitting comfortably in second, with Cheruiyot and Obiri on her shoulder.
With eight laps to go, Ayana surged, immediately splitting the field as the eventual Kenyan medallists, team-mate Cherono and Kenyan-born Turk Yasemin Can battled to stay with the Ethiopian.
Ayana timed 7:39.8 through the halfway point, but suddenly flagged.
At the 4000m mark, reached in 11.39.75, Cherono started to struggle and drift back but her two compatriots continued to work together over the next lap and closed the gap gradually on their rival from the other end of the Rift Valley.
Ayana visibly started to tire from the start of the penultimate lap and Cheruiyot, clearly feeling very fresh, started to move away from Obiri
Looking more weary than in any race since she was beaten over this distance at the IAAF Diamond League meeting in Paris just over a year ago, Ayana was then passed by first Cheruiyot and then Obiri.
Cheruiyot duly reeled her in and took the lead with 800 metres to run.
The Kenyan turned the screw and belted through the final lap, followed by Obiri, as the tiring Ayana held on for the final podium spot.
“I’m so happy for me, my husband, my son, my parents. This might be the last Olympics for me,” commented Cheruiyot.
“Almaz is such a great athlete, we thought she would win again. She got ahead but then I thought, ‘She’s not moving’. I was working and I went past her. I’m so happy.
“It was my fourth Olympic Games and I had not had gold. Almaz can go fast for 400m, then slow it down. Today I said, ‘I am going to follow her. I am not going to lose her,” elated Cheruiyot said.
Cheruiyot’s win handed Kenya the fifth gold in Rio to add on to Jemima Sumgong (marathon), David Rudisha (800m), Faith Kipyegon Chepng’etich (1500m) and Conseslus Kipruto (3000m steeplechase).