WRITTEN FOR THE IAAF WEBSITE
After making an impressive return to the top of the medals podium at the IAAF World cross country Championships in Bydgoszcz, Poland today (24), Kenyan Emily Chebet has set her sights on transferring her sparkling form to the track at this August’s World Championships in Moscow.
The 27-year-old turned back the clock to replicate her 2010 victory on the Myslecinek Park course in sprinting away to a surprise gold medal ahead of Ethiopia’s Hiwot Ayalew and Belaynesh Oljira.
It was the biggest win of her career since she first took the global crown three years ago, having suffered from a long-time knee injury and a dip in form on both the cross country surface and on the track.
Bydgoszcz 2013 was her fourth appearance in the Championship, having finished fifth in the junior race in the 2003 edition and failing to finish on home turf in Mombasa in 2007.
Having been almost inseparable from Ayalew, the Olympic 3,000m steeplechase fifth placer for most of the race, Chebet found herself trailing her East-African rival by around three seconds with just 800m remaining but managed to chase her down and overtake in an exhilarating finish.
Indeed, Chebet herself – who is married to 2008 Kenyan 10,000m champion Edward Muge - was pleasantly surprised by the outcome on a snow-drenched course in below zero temperatures:
“I wasn’t expecting to perform well here as the course was badly affected by the weather so I thank God for letting me win the title again,” she revealed.
“I’ll come back to Poland as I like it here very much. I did the same tactics as in 2010 and when I saw Ayalew was exhausted, I knew I’d overtake her at some point.”
A reserved Kenyan Administration police officer, Chebet certainly had a point to prove as she had failed to qualify for her national squad for the 2011 Championships in Punta Umbria and only placed fourth in her national trial for the event, having been spiked mid-way through the race.
Hailing from the Rift Valley province and based in Kericho, Chebet explained before the event that she believed Bydgoszcz was her destiny:
“In 2010, I finished fourth at the trials and went on to win gold. When I heard they returned the event there, I got the motivation to train hard, get back into shape and make the team since I missed defending my title in Spain.”
Her achievement therefore represents the ultimate redemption for Chebet as she majestically reclaimed the title she so unfortunately lost two years ago.
The modest and shy runner in turn led the Kenyan outfit to an emphatic gold medal-winning display, with 19 points to Ethiopia’s 48 - their fourth consecutive title in the event, again proving their dominance with all six runners inside the top 11.
Now with her confidence restored, Chebet will turn her attentions to the road in the short term and on the track for the summer:
“My main focus now (in the spring) is road races over 5km and 10km as I need to improve my form before the World Championships in Moscow,” she revealed.
“Then I want to try my luck at 10,000m so I’m going to try to make sure I get the opportunity to run for my country.”
Ninth in the 2007 World Championships over 10,000m in Osaka and with a 31:30.22 personal best dating back to the 2011 season, Chebet will no doubt tackle the new challenge with determination on the back of a glorious comeback campaign this winter.
Nicola Bamford for the IAAF