BEIJING (Reuters) - Kenya’s Vivian Cheruiyot won a thrilling last lap sprint to claim the women’s 10,000 meters gold medal on Monday, capping her comeback season with her second world title in the longest track event.
The 31-year-old, who took 2014 off to have a child, hit the front with 300 meters to go and powered her way to victory in 31 minutes, 41.31 seconds to reclaim the title she won as part of a 5,000-10,000 double at the 2011 world championships in Daegu.
“This is my real comeback,” she said. “I had many thoughts in my head during the race but I told myself I want to win no matter how hard it is. It is even more precious after I had my son a year ago.”
Ethiopia’s Gelete Burka stayed with Cheruiyot when the Kenyan sprinted away on the back straight but could not handle the pace in the final 100 meters and had to settle for silver in 31.41.77.
The bronze medal went to American Emily Infield (31.43.49), who pipped Molly Huddle on the line when her American team mate slowed to celebrate what she thought was going to be third place.
“In that last half step, I just let up too much,” said a hugely disappointed Huddle.
”Emily was right there the whole time with just more momentum. She got that bronze. It’s going to take a long time to get over.
“I just didn’t want to mess up on the last lap and I did. I don’t know when that chance will come again.”
Infield’s was the first world championship medal for a non-African born runner in the women’s 10,000m since her compatriot Kara Goucher won bronze in Osaka in 2007.
“I just ran through the line,” she said. “I feel a little guilty because I feel like Molly let up a little. I don’t think she realized how close I was. I was just trying to run through the line. I’m really thrilled.”
In the absence of Ethiopia’s three-times world champion Tirunesh Dibaba, who has taken the year off to have a child, Cheruiyot’s victory kept the title in East Africa for the 10th straight championships.
That was scant consolation for Burka.
”I am happy and disappointed at the same time,“ she said. ”Happy about the silver and disappointed because I could not follow our great 10k heroes like Dibaba. I was not able to share this title with her.
“The last meters were very difficult. I am okay now, the race is finished but I do not know whether or how I will celebrate tonight.”
Cheruiyot said she would not run the 5,000m in Beijing.
“I am not going to double here, this is it,” she said. “I will run in Zurich and then want to get ready to fight for the medal (at the Olympics) in Rio.”
Reporting by Nick Mulvenney, editing by Ken Ferris