Sunday, October 1, 2023
Riga, Latvia – Beatrice Chebet of Kenya accomplished an extraordinary feat at the inaugural World Athletics Road Running Championships in Riga, Latvia. The 23-year-old athlete, who had previously clinched the world cross country title earlier in the year in Bathurst, once again showcased her exceptional talents on the global stage.
In a picturesque morning graced by clear skies and a gentle breeze, Chebet led the charge for Kenya in the women’s 5km event, crossing the finish line with an impressive time of 14:35. Her remarkable performance came within a mere six seconds of breaking the women-only world record.
Lilian Kasait Rengeruk, another Kenyan and the 2017 world cross country bronze medalist, secured the silver medal, finishing just four seconds behind her compatriot Chebet. Rengeruk managed to fend off the challenge from Ethiopia’s Ejgayehu Taye, a renowned mixed-race world record-holder, with Taye completing the race in 14:40 to secure the bronze.
The elite race action in Latvia’s capital kicked off with Uganda’s Joy Cheptoyek and Peruth Chemutai strategically positioning themselves on either side of the lead breakaway pack. Alongside Chebet and Rengeruk were Taye and Medina Eisa from Ethiopia, forming a formidable group of athletes.
Rengeruk and Cheptoyek led a pack of nine athletes through the 1km mark in an electrifying 2:55. The race’s commencement featured a slight incline and a headwind as athletes crossed the scenic Daugava River for the first time. Unfortunately, Burundi’s Francine Niyomukunzi and Olympic 3000m steeplechase champion Chemutai couldn’t maintain the initial pace and fell behind by the 2km mark, which the lead group of seven reached in an astonishing 5:54.
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The course then guided the athletes back over the river, with the 3km marker reached in 8:53. The seven-strong group remained closely packed, with the podium places still within reach. Taye led the pack at this stage, closely followed by Chebet, Rengeruk, Cheptoyek, Italy’s Nadia Battocletti, Eisa, and USA’s Weini Kelati.
As the race unfolded, Kelati couldn’t keep pace, and Taye assumed the lead as they reached the 4km mark in 11:47. With the world title now in sight, Taye made her move, but Chebet matched her stride for stride. The race came down to Taye, Chebet, Rengeruk, and Eisa as they approached the final stretch, ready to make the last turn towards the finish line.
In a breathtaking finale, Chebet unleashed a powerful surge that left her competitors trailing behind, securing the gold medal in remarkable fashion. This victory marked her third world podium finish of the year, adding to her world cross country title and a bronze medal in the 5000m at the World Athletics Championships in Budapest.
Reflecting on her exceptional season, Chebet stated, “I had to remain confident. It wasn’t an easy race, but my previous performance in the 5000m in Oregon, where I finished second in the Wanda Diamond League Final, showed me that I could deliver, and today I did just that. It was an extraordinary race, something truly remarkable.”
Summing up her season’s achievements, she added, “Winning the World Cross Country title, clocking 14:05 for the 5000m on the track, which is the third-fastest time in history, and now, winning the 5km – it fills me with immense joy.”
In addition to the top three finishers, Medina Eisa secured fourth place with a time of 14:41, followed by Italy’s Nadia Battocletti, whose time of 14:45 set a new Italian record. Joy Cheptoyek finished in sixth place with a time of 14:50, while Weini Kelati claimed seventh place in 15:10, both setting new national records. Britain’s Verity Ockenden rounded out the top eight with a personal best time of 15:18.
Beatrice Chebet’s extraordinary victory in Riga will undoubtedly be remembered as a crowning achievement in her illustrious career, reaffirming her status as one of Kenya’s most exceptional athletic talents.