Celebrations ran from Sunday into Monday at the home of IAAF World Cross Country Championships junior women’s gold medallist Mercy Cherono after the sterling performance by the Kenyan team in Poland. The team arrives Tuesday at 6.30pm aboard a Swiss airlines.
The athlete’s father, John Koech, and mother, Emily, lacked words to describe their joy and said they owed everything to God.
At their home in Kipajit village, four kilometres from Sotik Town, the star’s parents said that Cherono, the first born in a family of six children, had shown immense athletics talent right from when she was in Standard Six when she started running at the Kipajit Primary School in Sotik and later continued her running at Chelimo Primary School near Kericho Town.
Cherono is currently under the management of Italian agent Gabriel Rosa.
“Our child is a disciplined girl who has always taken instructions,” said Koech.
After her initial success, Cherono assisted in setting up the Kipajit Training Camp which currently has 28 trainee athletes with the figure rising to over 50 during the school holidays.
Cherono’s father is the team manager of the camp and also the treasurer of Athletics Kenya’s Sotik sub-branch.
Her coach, Gabriel Kiptanui, was ecstatic and congratulated Cherono and the entire team for the performance.
“The success of the Kenyan team was through training hard and determination,” said Kiptanui.
Cherono is in Form Three at the Ngariet Secondary School in Sotik. Her younger sister, Sharon Chepkorir, is also following in the footsteps of her elder sister and has participated up to the regional level in the 3,000 metres race.
Cherono’s team mate, Caroline Chepkoech, was 10th at the national trials for the Poland championships.
At the Kipajit camp, her team mates were overjoyed and said her success was a challenge to them to perform better.
In Poland, the decision by Athletics Kenya to pay for two extra day to have the Kenyan team to acclimatise in Bydgoszcz played a major role in helping the country earn a clean sweep at Sunday’s championships.
Head coach David Leting was ecstatic over the team’s performance, which for the first time since 1994 saw Kenya win all the individual titles, a quest many had ruled out.
“It is our day. We decided to come here early and see for ourselves how it looks like. That was the advantage we had over our rivals and now, we can look forward to another year of great success,” he said.
Kenya team’s head of delegation Joseph Kinyua, however, remained cautious saying the success now piled up pressure on the country to maintain top performances.
He lauded the discipline and team spirit witnessed and asked the athletes to display the same in Nairobi during the Africa Senior Athletics Championship in July and August.
“Winning here is a big achievement. But retaining it is even more difficult. Now we are the enemy number one to our rivals and we must not rest on our laurels lest we slide back to the ditch,” he said.
Having declined to stay with the top officials in the IAAF family hotel, Kinyua was drilled through the rigorous preparations for the team.
“If you saw and heard how they (coaches) took the athletes through the steps, it was like a classroom. It is a hard work and I am happy they got the coaches’ points and won,” he said.
But when asked for details, Leting declined to divulge his secret, merely saying it was all about an inspiring talk to his athletes. He was glad they listened and ran through the script as required.
Athletics Kenya secretary general David Okeyo, who arrived in Bydgoszcz on Saturday, was happy that he was present when history was re-written.
For now, it is time for Kenya to bask in the glory they have craved for so long.
The worry of defending their titles in Spain next year can wait for tomorrow, at least according to the team’s captain Richard Mateelong.