Vivian Cheruiyot, the 2016 Female Athlete of the Year, will not defend her World 10,000m title in London next year, after officially bidding farewell to an illustrious track career spanning 18 years.
The 33-year-old racer is now scaling up to road running starting next year, having achieved her long-time dream of winning an Olympic gold medal at the Rio Summer Games on August 16.
Cheruiyot won the World 5,000m title in style after stunning favourite and World 5, 000m champion Ethiopia's Almaz Ayana in an Olympic Record of 14 minutes and 26.17 seconds.
Cheruiyot had on August 8 won silver in 10,000m in a National Record time of 29:32.53, the third-fastest time ever over the distance in a race won by Ayana in a World Record of 29:17.45.
ROAD RACING DEBUT
Her exploits in Rio brought the total number of medals Cheruiyot has won in major championship races to 24 since her international debut at the 1998 World Cross Country Championships, where she finished fifth in the junior category.
“I celebrated 18 years on track this year and I think it’s time to the pave way for upcoming athletes to take over the baton from me,” the diminutive Cheruiyot announced after she was crowned the Female Athlete of the Year for the second consecutive year during the Athletics Kenya Golden Gala on Wednesday in Nairobi.
“I believe Kenya has got talent and soon someone will fit in the spikes I am leaving,” said the athlete from Keiyo, fondly known as Pocket Rocket.
“Eighteen years is a long time and I don’t take this for granted. I thank God for His mercies and blessings this far,” said Cheruiyot, who thanked Kenyans and her family, especially her husband and coach Kiplagat Kirui, for their support.
Cheruiyot, who holds the 2011 Daegu and 2015 Beijing World 10,000m titles as well as the 2009 Berlin and 2011 Daegu World 5,000m titles, made a triumphant debut in road racing when she won the Great North Run (half marathon) on her 33rd birthday on September 11 this year.
“I am targeting my second half marathon in February next year before a full marathon debut later,” said Cheruiyot, who donned an elegant pink gown.
Cheruiyot was also named the Long Distance Athlete of the Year during the colourful black-tie event.
World Under-20 champion Cellphine Chespol won the Young Athlete of the Year award for the second year running, having won the World junior event in a Championship Record of 9:25.15.
Olympic marathon champion Jemimah Sungong, who also won the London Marathon to claim the World Marathon Major Series, took the Road Running award.
Faith Chepng’etich, who gave Kenya its second Olympic 1,500m title and broke the Kenyan 1,500m record twice — in Shanghai 3:56.82 and Eugene 3:56.41 — won the Middle Distance Athlete of the year title.
The Sprinter of the Year accolade for the second successive year went to Africa 400m hurdles silver medallist Maureen Jelagat while the Most Outstanding Performance title went to Grace Wanjiru, who won her seventh Africa race walk title.