Kenya will most certainly leave the 14th IAAF World Championships here without the two medals that Vivian Cheruiyot won in the women’s 5,000 and 10,000 metres at the last outing in Daegu a couple of years back.
Well, the latter was reclaimed by Ethiopia’s Tirunesh Dibaba at the weekend when the girl from the remote but athletics-rich Bekoji area of Ethiopia’s Arsi region clocked 30 minutes, 45.35 seconds to beat Kenya’s impressive Gladys Cherono (30:45.17) to second place with another Ethiopian, Belaynesh Oljira (30:46.98) completing the podium places.
The 5,000m gold is also destined for Addis Ababa, with Ethiopia’s indefatigable Olympic champion Meseret Defar fastest in qualifying yesterday (15:22.94) and looking set to reclaim the title she last won in Osaka in 2007.
Initially, Dibaba and Defar were expected to, like Cheruiyot, attempt the rare 5/10 double, but at a team meeting convened by the Ethiopian Athletics Federation here, the pair said they wanted to see young talent blossom.
“I sat down with Tirunesh and we agreed that she goes for the 10,000 metres and I remain in the 5,000 so that we can give the young athletes a chance to also get medals at these championships,” Defar, who is accompanied here by her husband, former footballer Tewodros Hailu, said after yesterday’s qualifier.
“It was a careful balancing act because Ethiopia needed to win gold medals and at the same time we needed to encourage the young runners who are coming through in the 5,000 and 10,000 metres,” Defar, who turns 30 in November, added.
Philanthropic Addis-born Defar and husband Hailu have no children of their own yet, but have adopted two and are taking care of a third, the victim of a heart disease.
Defar is active in many children’s charities and her selfless acts have been transferred to the track where she is keen to see youngsters taking after her, and following in the footsteps of an illustrious career that has seen the Chelsea FC die-hard win numerous global accolades.
Perhaps Kenyan athletics can learn a thing or two about transition of talent in the sport from the glamour girls of Ethiopian athletics. It’s a bit of a concern that in the current Team Kenya roster here, there are only two bona fide youngsters - 19-year-olds Faith Chepng’etich Yegon (1,500m) and Conseslus Kipruto (steeplechase).
To secure a bright future for Kenyan distance running, we must always stay ahead of the Ethiopians in thinking and strategy. Fortunately, strategy is something the head of Athletics Kenya’s Youth Development Committee, retired army chief Jack Tuwei, knows only too well...