Athletics world beater Cheruiyot plans a golden finish in Tokyo
Two decades ago, a 16-year-old prodigy arrived on the international scene to write a new chapter in track and field when she won a maiden global title at the World Junior Cross Country Championships in Algarve, Portugal in March 2000.
The rookie oozed raw talent as she raced bare feet to announce her arrival, which by extension, triggered the retirement of another long-distance runner, the great Tegla Loroupe.
Her run in Portugal was a clear justification of the cliche that out of Africa, there is always something new, and the world had better accept Kenyans’ talent and advantage in middle distance and endurance terms.
In the summer of the same year, Vivian Cheruiyot made her debut at the Olympic Games in Sydney, Australia, finishing a distant 14th in 5,000m. Injuries, loss of form and intense challenges took Cheruiyot’s voyage into headwinds.
It had to take her another eight years before she returned to the Olympics in Beijing, China.
But as fate would have it, she had to endure more misery as she ranked fifth in 5,000m. But like true legends, Cheruiyot never gave up.
She would clinch silver and bronze medals in 5,000m and 10,000m, respectively, at the 2012 Olympics held in London, and four years later, her coronation was complete as she emerged to rule the world winning gold at the Rio Olympics in the 5,000m race.
For an athlete who made her debut at the Olympics as a 16-year-old rookie, Cheruiyot has gone on to live her dream, making a complete 360 degrees career span.
“Three years ago, I announced my decision to retire from track competition and focus solely on road races and marathons.
I am not going back on that because I want to give a chance to younger athletes to take over the baton, fight for the Kenyan flag and dominate the track completion.
Someday I will retire and want to see these young athletes flourish,” Cheruiyot said.
But Cheruiyot said she’ll never think about retirement even at the age of 36 - not until she clinches her second Olympic title in Tokyo over the ultimate distance in athletics discipline, the marathon.
The former Laureus award winner has cited discipline, hard work and focus as her mantra, which has helped her remain competitive in a career spanning over 20 years.
“It is the same thing I tell the young athletes of today, be patient, discipline and run clean. Always train hard and be focused, the victory will follow,” said Cheruiyot.
Cheruiyot, who has recovered from a tendon injury, which ruled her out of the Berlin marathon last year, hopes to return to action after the health situation improves across the globe.
She had hoped to wrap up her performance for the national team in 2020 with the Olympics, but she will now be forced to wait another year to actualize her plans.
“One year is a long time in sport and I want to be in my best shape to compete. But I will be patient and see how the season unfolds. - XINHUA