HYVIN NURSING GOLDEN DREAMS: History beckons as Kiyeng, Rotich and Chepkoech target gold in Rio

By JONATHAN KOMEN: Wednesday, August 3rd 2016 at 00:00 GMT +3 | Athletics
Hyvin Kiyeng races to victory in the women's 3000m steeplechase finals during the Kenya Police athletics championship at Kasarani stadium on April 22, 2016. [PHOTO:DENNIS OKEYO/STANDARD]

For Hyvin Kiyeng, destiny beckons. The men’s version of the water jumps and barriers is Kenya’s for keeping.

Yet even as she emerges to stake a claim in the 3,000m steeplechase, another force in Ruth Jebet, now a Bahraini, lurks behind her lean build.

And so, the stage is set for a battle that is not the faint-hearted in Rio de Janeiro which begins this Friday in Brazil.

Kiyeng is the reigning world 3,000m steeplechase champion, and if she harbours lofty dreams in the South American nation, no one can begrudge her.

It’s all about the hunt for Kenya’s women first Olympic 3,000m steeplechase gold medal.

Eunice Jepkorir won silver at the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, China, which stands out as the only water and barriers medal in Kenya’s Olympic trophy cabinet.

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Having produced a brilliant showing in the IAAF Diamond League meetings, world champion Kiyeng will no doubt lead the chase for the missing jewel against strong opposition from Ethiopia, Tunisia and Bahrain.

Kiyeng, an alumnae of athletics-rich Sing’ore Girls Secondary School in Keiyo North, will be up against Bahrain’s Jebet, Tunisia’s Olympic champion and world silver medallist Habiba Ghribi and Olympic bronze medallist Sofia Assefa of Ethiopia.

But that does not seem to bother Kiyeng, who has vowed to stop any aggression in Brazil.

“I have prepared well. We know very well that Kenya has never won an Olympic gold in the race and we feel it’s high time we break the jinx. That will only happen if we plan well and stop looking at specific athletes. Even budding athletes can pull a surprise,” she said.

Kiyeng has won Shanghai and Olso as well as a runner-up in Eugene Diamond League meetings – behind Kenyan-turned-Bahraini Jebet.

In Eugene Diamond League meeting in May, Jebet (8:59.97) and Kiyeng (9:00.01) posted best times, which make them second and third fastest steeplechasers in history respectively.

Kiyeng, who comes from Kocholwo village in Keiyo South, said: “I’m experienced since competing at the world championships in Moscow and hope to give my best. I know Kenyans have a strong challenge from Bahrain, Ethiopia and Tunisia in Rio.”

She will combine forces with Africa cross country silver medallist Beatrice Chepkoech and Lydia Rotich.

But Habiba Ghribi is also itching for glory. She told Feverpitch at the Muller Anniversary Games in London last week: “It is nice to get a Diamond Race victory but I will be expecting another big performance in the Rio Olympics,” said Ghribi.

Coach Richard Metto, who trains Kiyeng at Global Sports Communications in Kaptagat, said: “She has enough experience and I hope she will handle the Olympic pressure well.”