Kenyan world champion Vivian Cheruiyot begins her quest for two Olympic gold medals Friday when athletics action gets under way at the Olympic Stadium here in London. The 28-year-old Cheruiyot is trying to match the achievement of Ethiopian rival Tirunesh Dibaba, who won gold at both 5,000 meters and 10,000 meters at the 2008 Beijing Olympics. Cheruiyot won gold at both distances at last year’s world championships in Daegu, South Korea.
I spoke last week with Gordon Oluoch, Kenya’s Commissioner of Sports, and he told me he’s optimistic Cheruiyot will be on the medals podium after Friday evening’s women’s 10,000 event. But will she be on the very top? Dibaba looks ready for Cheruiyot’s challenge. Last month, the Ethiopian clocked 30:24.39 in the northwestern U.S. city of Eugene, Oregon, the fastest time by any woman this year, and two minutes faster than Cheruiyot’s season best. Olympic distance races, though, tend to be tactical in nature, and Friday night’s final could very well come down to a closing sprint between the African stars.
Cheruiyot has won numerous international awards during her athletics career, but she does not yet have an Olympic gold medal. If she comes up short Friday, she’s scheduled to get another chance August 10th, when the women’s 5,000 meters will be held.
Dibaba is currently listed as a reserve on the Ethiopian squad for the 5,000. Four years ago in Beijing, she won Olympic gold in 15:41.40, with Cheruiyot placing fifth, about five seconds behind.