Mercy Cherono Wins Silver for Kenya in Women’s 5000m
by Justin Lagat
Just like in the 10,000m, the chances of Kenyan women winning a gold medal in the 5000m event looked so remote, given the presence of Ethiopia’s Meseret Defar and her compatriots in the race. Looking at Mercy Chereno in the last stages of the race, I could tell she was much focused, knew exactly what she wanted and who her main competitor in the race was. She had placed herself right behind Defar and seemed not to care what the other athletes were doing. She was waiting for Defar to move so that she could follow and try her best to overtake her. Defar on the other hand looked like she did not want to overtake her compatriot, Ayana, who was at the front, because the two Kenyans who were patiently waiting for the move behind her back may have easily overtaken her too and another medal for her country might have been compromised. It was only after Mercy Cherono tried to overtake both of them with about 300m to go when she reacted and moved to the front. She looked back at her compatriot at the last bend, and seeing that Mercy Cherono had already overtaken her, began to open a gap and ran her own individual race. She won the gold medal in a comfortable margin. Cherono took the Silver, followed by Ayana taking the bronze medal. Viola Kibiwot took the fourth position.
The start of this race had been very slow, with no one seeming to volunteer to go to the front to set up a good pace. The Ethiopians took the initiative as they approached 3000m in 9:18. The pace continued to accelerate until the leading group remained with two Kenyans and three Ethiopians, then one Ethiopian started to drop off. Ayana led at the front, and then Defar with Cherono stuck to her back, followed by Viola Kibiwot. At the bell, Kibiwot could not manage to step up the pace like the others and started to lose ground. Mercy Cherono was left by her compatriot to fight alone for the silver medal for Kenya. She did it! It was the best anyone could have expected from her under the circumstances.
We could not help trying to imagine how the race would have been like had Vivian Cheruiyot been in it. She would have certainly given a rough time to Defar and Kenya would probably have won at least two medals in this race.
In the past competitions, Kenyan men have always been doing much better than their female counterparts, but with Cherono’s win now adding up the number of medals won by Kenyan women to six against the four that have so far been won by the Kenyan men, the women are really beginning to be world beaters too and are covering up for the weaknesses beginning to be seen in the men’s performances. Milcah Chemos’ first ever gold medal for Kenya in the women’s steeplechase is a good indication that the women are beginning to dominate the world too just like their male counterparts, if not taking over from them.
Mercy Cherono is still quite new to the senior championship races, but is an athlete who is seen by many to be having the greatest potential to accomplish great achievements once she gets more experience in the field. She won the award of the most promising athlete in Kenya at the Sportsman/woman Of Year Awards (SOYA) in 2010 after winning a number of gold medals in some of the world’s junior races. Moving to the senior races, she has been able to win a number of the IAAF Diamond League races in 2012 and it is not hard for anybody who has been watching her performances to tell that she will soon become one of the athletes to join the caliber of Meseret Defar, Vivian Cheruiyot and Tirunesh Dibaba. She had started by winning silver medals too at the junior races before moving to the gold medals. She could just be beginning to replicate that in the senior races too.
The silver medal she just won here in Moscow could just be the beginning of her journey to winning many gold medals in the future.