The Heart of a Champion: Vivian Jepkemoi Cheruiyot Makes Good on Her Promise to Win Gold in One of the Most Stunning Displays of Competitive Spirit
“The one who leads does not necessarily arrive at their destination.”
— Swahili Proverb
On August 20th, Africa swooped a triple medal win with Kenya and Ethiopia finishing in top three of the women’s Olympic 5000 meter final. The winners for gold and silver were Vivian Cheruiyot and Hellen Onsando Obiri and Ethiopia’s Almaz Ayana won bronze.
It was a particularly big night for Cheruiyot who clinched the first ever Olympic gold medal for Kenya in the women’s 5000-meter race. It was also the first gold medal for the 32-year-old long distance runner.
Cheruiyot had made good on her promise. About a week earlier after coming second in the 10,000-meter final, the Kenyan runner said to reporters, “One day, one time, I know that I’m going to be an Olympic champion.”
Ayana, the gold medallist for the 10,000-meter race, had dominated the track in their last race together. But this was a chance for the Kenyan runner to get her revenge.
In the beginnings of the race, Ayana took charge of the pack and with five laps to go. She sprinted with such pace that it was thought this was another guaranteed gold medal for the Ethiopian.
However, no one saw what was about to happen as the Kenyans were hatching a predacious scheme.
“Vivian and I were able to help each other. We never gave up when Ayana tried to kick. She told me to kick and test her. We tried, and she (Vivian) said we rest a bit before making a move,” Obri recalled.
The collaborative plot and perseverance by Cheruiyot and Obiri was about to pay off.
Obiri added: [perfectpullquote align=”full” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””]“Then I told Vivian, ‘Let’s go with two laps remaining’, and that’s when I knew unless one of us died on the track, 1-2 was ours for the taking. We kept talking throughout the race.”[/perfectpullquote]
(Photo Courtesy: Quinn Rooney/Getty Images)
In the last two laps, they eventually caught up and took over
With 600 meters to go, in what appeared to be one of the greatest strategies the Rio Olympics, Cheruiyot displayed an outstanding increase in pace earning her an Olympic record of 14:26:17.
Obiri won silver after finishing in 14:29:77 while Ayana won bronze with a time of 14:33:59.
“It’s my fourth Olympics, and I hadn’t had gold. Today I said ‘I am not going to lose,'” said Cheruiyot. “The Kenyan also described her race and said, “Almaz is such a great athlete, and we thought she would win again. She got ahead but then I thought, ‘She’s not moving.’ I was working, and I went past her.”
Cheruiyot in celebration of her win suggested that the Rio Olympics might be her last Olympics.
It was a good day for Kenya and Africa over role, who’s athletes took top 5 positions with Mercy Cherono of Kenya finishing fourth in 14:42:89 and Ethiopia’s Senbere Teferi in fifth place at 14:43:75.
Cheruiyot has won the most female international accolades in distance running this decade: 5000 meters Olympics silver medal in 2012, 5000 meters World title in 2011, 10,000 meters Olympics bronze medal in 2012 and World titles in 2011 and 2015, silver in the just concluded 10000 meters and gold in the 5,000 meters in Rio.
Featured Photo: Kenya’s Vivian Jepkemoi Cheruiyot (R) and Kenya’s Hellen Onsando Obiri (L) celebrate after finishing first and second respectively in the Women’s 5000 meters (Photo Courtesy/ Adrian DENNIS / AFP)