Cheruiyot Takes First Step Towards Second Gold

American-record holder Molly Huddle fails to advance.

Written by: David Monti

(c) 2011 Race Results Weekly, all rights reserved. Used with permission.

Vivian Cheruiyot is on her way to a second gold at the World Championships. Photo: PhotoRun

DAEGU — At the Tuesday morning session of the 13th IAAF World Championships here, Kenya’s Vivian Cheruiyot took her first step towards earning her second gold medal at these championships. Wearing a special bib with a gold background, signifying that she had won the gold medal in the last world championships, Cheruiyot ran a smart race in the second of two 5000-meter heats this morning. Conserving her energy, she ran in the pack before sprinting just enough at the end to get the fifth and final automatic qualifying spot in 15:34.80.

“The race was very easy because it was a qualification mark to the final,” said the tiny Cheruiyot who has run the fastest 5000m in the world this season (14:20.87). “So, we decided to relax because we were coming from the 10,000 the other day,” she said referring to her friend and teammate Linet Masai who finished third. “We want to recover for the final.”

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Only one athlete, Ethiopia’s Tirunesh Dibaba, has won both the 5000m and 10,000m at the same World Championships since the IAAF added the 5000m in 1995. Cheruiyot won the 5000m at these championships in 2009, while Masai, who won the bronze medal in the 10,000m here, won the gold in 2009.

Today’s preliminary round only eliminated seven athletes, and none of the medal favorites went out. However, America’s Molly Huddle, the national record holder for the distance, did not advance. She had suffered from a foot injury prior to these championships and she said today that she did not feel very strong. “I just tried to hang on to the back of the pack, but I just wasn’t prepared, that’s what it came down to,” Huddle told reporters.

Ethiopia’s Meseret Defar, the 2007 world champion, won the first heat in 15:19.46. She had dropped out of the 10,000m final last Saturday.

In the men’s 1500m qualifying, France’s Mehdi Baala was allowed to advance by the jury of appeals despite finishing second-to-last in the second of three heats. Baala, the 1500m bronze medalist from the Beijing Olympics, was pushed from behind with about 90 meters left in his heat, stepped on the rail with his left foot, then crashed to the track. He got up, and finished in 4:13.10. Advancing with far less drama was the Olympic silver medalist, Nick Willis of New Zealand. He stayed in the pack while Kenya’s Daniel Kipchirchir Komen surged ahead and built up a huge lead in the first heat which he held to the finish, recording the fastest time of the day: 3:38.54. Willis finished second in 3:39.24, and proclaimed that the race was essentially a rust-buster. “It’s never too easy when you haven’t raced for a month, getting all the rust out of your system” said Willis, who lives in the United States in Ann Arbor, Michigan. “As one of the favorites I have the luxury of using the rounds, especially the first round, as sort of part of my taper and getting my muscles used to the mechanics and coordination and stuff. Yeah, it was good.”

Other noteworthy athletes who advanced were the Beijing Olympic champion, Asbel Kiprop of Kenya, who won the second heat; last year’s Fifth Avenue Mile champion, Amine Laalou of Morocco, who won the third heat; and the fastest 1500m runner of the year, Silas Kiplagat of Kenya, who finished third behind Laalou.

Several strong athletes failed to advance, including Australia’s Jeff Riseley and America’s Andrew Wheating. Wheating said he was suffering from a hamstring injury.

There is more distance action this evening at Daegu stadium with the women’s 1500m semi-finals featuring defending champion Maryam Yusuf Jamal of Bahrain; the women’s 3000m steeplechase final, in which world leader Milcah Chemos Cheywa is a big favorite; and the men’s 800m final, where Kenya’s David Rudisha will try to win his first world title.

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