Irene Cheptai’s carefully carried out plans to return to competition with a stab at Olympics glory have all but been destroyed.
Cheptain, the 2017 World Cross Country senior women champion, was on the comeback trail after two years out of action, before the coronavirus epidemic put paid to here progress.
Cheptai, had taken a break to give birth, and was optimistic she would make the Kenyan team to the Olympic Games that were originally set to begin in July in Tokyo but were postponed to next year due to the Covid-19 that is raging in the world.
She went for maternity leave immediately after the 2017 World Championships where she finished seventh in the 10,000m won by Ethiopia’s Almaz Ayana 30:16.32 ahead of her compatriot Tirunesh Dibaba (31:02.69) while Kenya’s Agnes Tirop (31:03.50) bagged bronze.
Cheptain told Nation Sport she was in geat shape and would have competed in Prague Half Marathon yesterday as part of her build up plan but for the race cancellation due to the coronavirus pandemic.
“This has severely disrupted my programmes but we can’t blame anybody because it has affected the whole world,” said Cheptai.
“I now have to scale down my training because my target was to represent Kenya in the Olympic Games which have since been pushed to next year. The best thing now is to train individually to keep fit and stay safe with my family as we wait for the virus to be contained,” she added.
She urged her training mates to continue staying safe and training individually as they prepare for the new season.
“It’s really tough training alone but we have to follow the guidelines set by the government of Kenya. We as athletes also need to keep training for the next season whenever it will start,” said Cheptai.
Cheptai entered the history books when she led other Kenyans in a clean sweep of the women’s senior race in the 2017 World Cross Country Championships in Kampala, Uganda.
She won gold after a tough battle crossing the line in 31:57 with Alice Aprot coming in second position in 32:01 while Lilian Kasait was third in 32:11.
Hyvin Kiyeng, Agnes Tirop and Faith Chepngetich came in fourth, fifth and sixth positions respectively.
“I was getting into good shape and I had good expectations in the track because I was doing enough loading which is good especially in the track. After emerging fifth in 2017 during the World Championships I believe there is more room to improve and do better,” she said.
Cheptai says she started her preparations last year when she competed in Prague 10km road race where she emerged fourth after clocking 31:26.
She later participated in the 16km road race in Netherlands coming in second after timing 50:00.
Cheptai also participated in the New Delhi Half Marathon coming in fourth before racing in Tuskys Wareng 10km road race to cross the finish line third.
All this races she said that it was part of her comeback in preparations for the big task ahead of Olympic Games.
“After the maternity leave, I decided to participate in various races to shed off the weight I had put on which really worked for me. Now I have to wait for the next season when things will normalise because our lives are now stagnated,” she said.