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How Vivian got her double

Friday September 2 2011

Kenya’s World 5,000m champion Vivian Jepkemoi Cheruiyot (right) celebrates with silver medallist Sylvia Kibet (centre) and team mate Mercy Cherono on Sept 2, 2011. Photo/AFP

Kenya’s World 5,000m champion Vivian Jepkemoi Cheruiyot (right) celebrates with silver medallist Sylvia Kibet (centre) and team mate Mercy Cherono on Sept 2, 2011. Photo/AFP 

By ELIAS MAKORI, Sports Editor [email protected] in Daegu, South Korea 

Things don’t just happen. They are made to happen. And Friday, Ricky Simms and Moses Kiplagat revealed how they set Vivian Cheruiyot onto the path to greatness, meticulously scripting her assault on the World Cross Country title early this year, and then last night’s two-peat golden performance on the track here.

You could feel a huge sense of satisfaction running through Kiplagat’s mind as he watched, trackside, images of his wife Cheruiyot humming the Kenyan national anthem for the second time at the World Championships in Athletics at the Daegu Stadium, an unbelievable moment.

Meanwhile, Simms, Cheruiyot’s manager who also handles the world’s most popular athlete, Jamaican sprint sensation Usain Bolt, was busy making calls to Kaptarakwa in Keiyo district where Cheruiyot was born 28 years ago and where she nurtured her running career.

Last Sunday, Simms was on phone again linking Cheruiyot to Kenya after the Kenya Police “pocket rocket” blew her opponents into smithereens on the way to winning the 10,000 metres title.

“I’m the happiest person in the world today,” Kiplagat said after Cheruiyot won a battle of wit, speed and mind games against Ethiopia’s Meseret Defar, cruising to victory in 14 minutes, 55.36 seconds.

Cheruiyot’s fellow policewoman, Sylvia Kibet, took the silver in a replica of the last World Championships in Berlin where it was a Vivian-Meseret-Sylvia podium.

It was Kenya’s fifth gold medal at these championships, the country’s best ever outing that moves them up to second place behind runaway leaders USA and ahead of Russia.

Kenya now has five gold medals, four silver and three bronze, against the USA’s count of 9-5-2 and Russia’s 5-3-5.

Cheruiyot becomes only the second female to complete a golden double after Ethiopia’s Tirunesh Dibaba’s feat at the Helsinki championships in 2005, incidentally Kenya’s worst outing with just Benjamin Limo’s gold in the 5,000m to show.

“It took a long time to plan. We started planning this last year, and we focused first on the world cross country championships and I knew she would run a double today,” added Kiplagat.

“We adjusted a few things in her workouts. You cannot just move from doing 5x400 metres workouts to 6x800 metres. She was not training for the 10,000 metres but the 5,000 metres.
“We just added a little bit of speed and if you looked at her workouts before Daegu, then you would see she was in great shape.”

Simms could afford a huge smile after the disappointment of his biggest athlete Bolt’s monumental false start last Sunday.

“If it is a slow race, Vivian will win. If it is a fast race, Vivian will win,” Simms said on the bus to the Daegu Stadium, and his remarks came to pass, his best moment at these championships so far. “We started planning (Vivian’s season) last November and we asked Athletics Kenya to pick Vivian for two races and they agreed, which is quite unusual and I must say I give them credit for that,” Simms told the Nation.

“I really think Vivian should be the IAAF Athlete of the year this year with her world title in the cross country and now her two titles here – it would be great to see big and small standing on the same stage in Monaco at the end of the year,” he added.

The Briton was referring to the possibility of the six-foot-five sharing the same podium with five-foot-one Cheruiyot at the IAAF awards gala held each November in Monaco.

Kenya’s new 800m world champion David Rudisha and Croatian high jumper Blanca Vlasic won the awards last season.

Everything worked perfectly

Cheruiyot, modest as usual, said everything worked perfectly for her Friday, the deceivingly slow pace of the race not at all spoiling her strategy.

Japan’s early pace-setter Hitomi Niiya led the pack through the 3,000m-mark in 3:02.10 with Russia’s Yelena Zadorozhnaya pacing through the 2,000m in 6:07.10 before Vivian took charge, wheezing through the 3,000m and 4,000m in 9:10.97 and 12:13.60 respectively.

For a moment, the slow pace had everyone in the Kenyan camp wondering whether Vivian would beat Defar in the final sprint.

“I was a bit worried because we know Vivian is stronger in the long kick and I thought she would have gone out with three laps to go because Defar is strong in the final kick,” silver medallist Kibet said. “I was myself surprised with my silver because I had already settled for bronze but when I saw Defar struggling with about 100 metres to go, I decided to go for the silver.”

While Cheruiyot was elated, Defar was obviously downcast, blaming her tribulations on the Ethiopian Athletics Federations poor travel plans that left her sick.

“When I was in Addis Ababa, I was in the form of my life, but it took me 22 hours to travel to Daegu and when I got here, I was sick and was throwing up,” the winner of this race in Osaka in 2007 and at the Athens Olympics in 2004. “I’m very disappointed that I lost the 10,000 metres and now the 5,000 metres, but I must say congratulations to Vivian. She was very strong today.”

Cheruiyot said she had worked hard on her finish.

“The last 400 metres have been very difficult for Kenya. Before, we did not have a strong last 400 metres but we have worked on that,” she said. “The 10,000 metres victory gave me the morale and I said as the defending champion I must win the 5,000m title. After three laps I felt comfortable and I said to myself if the race goes all the way, I will fight to the last minute.

“The race was ok. I went to talk to my husband – he gave me instructions for the race and it worked. I would like to thank my husband and my manager Ricky Simms for all their support. I am incredibly happy to be at this point as a double medallist.”

She paid tribute to the Kenyan team in the race. “We normally do teamwork, that is the secret of our success.”

Spare a happy thought for Mercy Cherono, the 20-year-old Form Four student at Ngariet Secondary School in Sotik, who carried her schoolbooks to Daegu and juggled between studies and training but finished fifth.