World and Commonwealth 1,500m silver medallist Timothy Cheruiyot admits that he will be under pressure to deliver at the World Championships after the withdrawal of the World 1,500m defending champion Elijah Manang’oi.
Cheruiyot spoke as the 2016 World Under-20 1,500m champion Kumari Taki said he is up to the task after being named to replace Manang'oi for the World Championships set for September 27 to October 6 in Doha.
Kenya will be represented by Cheruiyot, Taki, Manang’oi's younger brother George and World Junior 1,5000 record holder Ronald Kwemoi.
“I know all the eyes will be on me to not only guide the team but ensure we retain the title. It’s a big responsibly and that calls for hard work, commitment and discipline. I must go an extra mile in training to achieve that,” said Cheruiyot, who retained his Diamond League Series Trophy early this month.
Cheruiyot, who says the Manang'oi's absence due to an ankle injury left him sad, believes the rest of the athletes will make the country proud in Doha.
“It will be a great thing to reach the final the four of us for a possible podium sweep. I know we can achieve if we strategise well,” said the 24-year-old, who trains with Elijah and George at the Rongai Athletic Club under coach Bernard Ouma.
After playing second fiddle to Elijah Manang’oi on several occasions, Cheruiyot said he now wants to go a step better by winning gold in Doha. Cheruiyot finished second behind Elijah during the 2017 London World Championships and last year’s Commonwealth Games and Africa Championships.
“I can’t wait for that moment,” said Cheruiyot, who, however, remains cautious of the opposition that awaits them in Doha, singling out Souleiman Ayanleh from Djibouti and Algerian Taoufik Makhloufi, who won gold in 1,500m at the 2012 London and silver in 2016 Rio Olympics.
While withdrawing, Manang'oi, the Commonwealth and Africa 1,500m champion, said an ankle injury he picked in training has locked him out.
“Elijah called me expressing his intentions to withdraw telling me that he believes in me to take up his place,” said Taki. “It’s quite a humbling gesture from Elijah since most athletes opt to keep quite denying others a chance.”
Taki, who last presented Kenya at last year’s Commonwealth Games, wished Manang'oi a speedy recovery as he plans for next year’s Tokyo Olympic Games.
Athletics Kenya vice president Paul Mutwii disclosed that they have picked Taki, who finished fourth during the national trials, to replace Manang'oi.
“I have been in great shape the whole of this year, though I finished fourth at the trials. I thank God for this chance and I hope to do well and win a medal in Doha,” said the 20-year-old Taki, who will be making his debut at the World event.
Kwemoi is making a return to the team after a lengthy lay-off, having lost in the semi-finals of the 1,500m during the 2017 World Championships in London.
It will be Cheruiyot’s third appearance at the World Championships, having settled seventh in the 2015 edition held in Beijing, before going for silver in the 2017 event in London, losing the battle to Elijah.
George, who is also the 2017 World Under-18 1,500m champion, will be making his debut, while Kwemoi, the 2014 Commonwealth Games 1,500m silver medallist, will be making his second appearance.