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Triple Diamond League champion Cheruiyot targets Doha gold

Triple Diamond League champion Cheruiyot targets Doha gold

IAAF
DOHA
Had it not been for a rookie error in his first ever international race, Timothy Cheruiyot may not be the same runner – and three-time Diamond League champion – that he is today.
He can now look back on the experience and smile, but in the aftermath of the 2015 IAAF World Relays in The Bahamas he faced backlash back home in Kenya for throwing away the chance of a world record in the distance medley relay.
Cheruiyot, aged 19 at the time and far less experienced than almost everyone else in the race, covered the first lap of his 1,600m leg in a lactic-inducing 51.96, opening up a three-second lead on the USA. Over the last two laps, though, USA’s Ben Blankenship clawed back the deficit and overtook Cheruiyot in the closing stages, clocking a world record of 9:15.50.
“It was amazing but also nerve wracking,” he says. “I was young and inexperienced but I also had a lot of adrenalin. I was told by the team coaches that I’d be running the anchor leg and my goal was to bring the baton home in a world. It was a lot of pressure.
“Looking back on it now, of course I know that I went out too fast. Ben Blankenship was a great competitor that day and he and his teammates deserved the world record. I was still really pleased to get silver, but people at home blamed me for not getting gold. It was quite difficult for me.”
It wasn’t long before Cheruiyot redeemed himself. He set 1,500m PBs of 3:35.24 and 3:34.86 in the months that followed and went on to finish seventh in the World Championships final in Beijing. The race in Nassau acted as the catalyst for Cheruiyot wanting to improve as a runner.
“The experience gave me a hunger for wanting more international races and to get better at 1,500m running.”
Throwing away the chance of a world record wasn’t the first missed opportunity of Cheruiyot’s career, nor was it the last.
One year earlier, he finished third over 800m at Kenya’s trials for the 2014 World U20 Championships, missing a place on the team by 0.07. He finished fourth in the 1,500m at Kenya’s 2016 Olympic Trials, missing a place on the team for Rio by half a second.
He also has a streak of four successive major championship silver medals, but he doesn’t count those as disappointments, especially the three that have been earned when finishing second to training partner Elijah Manangoi.
The world champion doesn’t always get the better of Cheruiyot, though, especially on the IAAF Diamond League circuit. In fact, Cheruiyot has been the more dominant in that arena, winning 11 of his 12 Diamond League races between 2018 and 2019, capped last weekend in Brussels with his third successive Diamond trophy.
The success of the two men has been very much a team effort, spearheaded by coach Bernard Ouma.
“We help each other,” Cheruiyot says of Manangoi. “Elijah is three years older than me but he has assisted me in my running. We work hard together in training under Bernard’s guidance, each pushing the other so we both improve.”
Joining Ouma’s Rongai Athletics Club (RAC) in 2014 was a significant turning point in Cheruiyot’s career. With Ouma’s guidance, quality training partners, and a tailored training plan, Cheruiyot thrived.
“At RAC I have set up a structured working system with individual goals, prioritised to individual efforts and capabilities,” says Ouma. “Just like the others, Tim is very disciplined, dedicated, and knows what he wants. He believes in himself, his coach and the training plan, which he follows to the letter.”
In his first full season as a member of RAC, Cheruiyot finished seventh at the IAAF World Championships Beijing 2015. He took the silver medal at the African Championships in 2016 and reduced his PB to 3:31.34. After breaking 3:30 for the first time in 2017, he took the silver medal behind Manangoi at the World Championships in London and won his first Diamond trophy.
Further sub-3:30 clockings and Diamond trophies followed in 2018 and 2019. Manangoi, meanwhile, followed his world title with gold medals at the 2018 Commonwealth Games and African Championships.
“Timothy and Elijah are unique in their own ways,” explains Ouma. “The age difference is a factor, but Tim happens to be rising faster to join Elijah at the world-class level. Elijah is more of a talent-dominant athlete while Tim is sheer hard work and some percentage of talent. Championship races require experience, which they are both acquiring gradually and differently.
“Above all, they are dedicated individuals exploring their capabilities and limitations,” he adds. “They don’t fear making mistakes and are not risk-averse. And they always encourage each other, regardless of which one wins or loses.”

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