World champion Vivian Cheruiyot yesterday qualified for the Rio Olympic Games after winning the women’s 10,000m race at the ongoing National trials at the Kipchoge Keino Stadium, Eldoret.
Cheruiyot, who won bronze in 10,000m at the 2012 London Olympics, clocked her fastest time on Kenyan soil of 31 minutes and 36.37 seconds, beating United States-based Betsy Saina, who came in second in 32:04.83.
Cheruiyot, the 2011 World 10,000m and 5,000m champion, and Saina will now team up with Africa Games and Africa 10,000m champion Alice Aprot, who was given a wild card, in a bid to wrestle the title from their Ethiopian arch-rivals.
Aprot, who is also the Africa Cross Country champions, clocked a world-leading time of 30:26.94 to win the African title in South Africa on Saturday.
The Kenyans will now face a strong team from Ethiopia led by 2008 Beijing and 2012 London Olympics 10,000m champion Tirunesh Dibaba, World 5,000m champion Almaz Ayana and World 10,000m silver medallist Delete Burka.
Ethiopia selected their 10,000m women and men’s teams on Wednesday night in Hengelo, where Ayana timed a world-leading 30:07:00, beating Burka (30:28:47) and Dibaba (30:28:53) respectively.
It will be interesting not only to see how the fast Aprot and Ayana will handle the field but also the legendary rivalry between Cheruiyot and Dibaba, who are both returning from maternity leave.
Cheruiyot said she will be banking on great teamwork from Aprot and Saina to deliver good results in Rio.
An elated Saina celebrated her 28th birthday in style on Thursday by claiming a ticket to her maiden Olympics.
The Ethiopian men’s team has little-known Yigerem Demelash, Tamrat Tolla and Abadi Hadis, who will face the Kenyan team that will be named Friday.
Already, World 10,000m silver medallist Geoffrey Kamworor has been given a wild card.z