Beatrice Chebet celebrates her win at the World Cross Country Championships in Bathurst (© Getty Images)
While winning a global gold medal might be the pinnacle of the year – if not career – for many athletes, Beatrice Chebet remains motivated for another title to add to her ever-expanding CV.
The world 5000m silver medallist became the world cross country champion in February, winning the senior women’s race and leading the Kenyan squad to the team title at the World Athletics Cross Country Championships Bathurst 23. Now the 23-year-old has turned her attention back to the track as she plots her path to the World Athletics Championships Budapest 23 in August.
Chebet started her season on a high note, winning the 5000m at the Kip Keino Classic, a World Athletics Continental Tour Gold meeting, in Nairobi, Kenya, on 13 May.
Her victory in front of a home crowd at the Moi International Sports Centre in Kasarani was a good indication that her training is going well, and on the right course, for her next big goal: to win the world 5000m title in Budapest.
Beatrice Chebet wins the 5000m at the World Athletics Continental Tour Gold meeting in Nairobi (© Sila Kiplagat)
“I will be happy if I place on the podium this year in Budapest, although my main aim – which I know should be the same for all the runners who will be running at the World Championships – is the gold medal,” Chebet says. “However, I will be thankful for any medal I get there.”
On the morning of 23 August, Chebet – who already has a wild card place to run in Budapest after winning the 2022 Wanda Diamond League title, subject to selection by her national federation – will be standing at the start line for the heats of the women’s 5000m at the National Athletics Centre to begin her quest for the world title. But, with all the best runners in the world yearning for gold, she knows it won’t be easy.
From her experiences during past battles on the world stage, Chebet believes that the Ethiopian runners and some of her Kenyan compatriots are likely to be her main rivals. The defending champion, who won the 5000m title in a close race ahead of Chebet in Oregon, for example, is Ethiopia’s Gudaf Tsegay. Another Ethiopian athlete, Letesenbet Gidey, is the world record-holder who had looked on course to beat Chebet to the world cross country title in Bathurst before she fell in the closing stages.
Chebet had similar encounters when winning her world U20 5000m title and world U20 cross country gold in 2019. In the latter, she won in a photo finish ahead of Ethiopia’s Alemitu Tariku and Tsigie Gebreselama as they all clocked 20:50 for the 6km race.
“I talked with Gidey some time after the incident in Bathurst, and she was doing well, health wise, and looking forward to coming back strong,” Chebet says.
Their rivalry is a friendly one. When asked whether she thinks Gidey will be looking forward to revenge in their next competition, Chebet replies: “We didn’t talk about competing against each other. It was to check up on her.”
While the rest of her 2023 racing calendar is yet to be confirmed, Chebet – who has a 5000m PB of 14:34.55 that she ran at the Oslo Diamond League in 2021 – will be hoping to remain a strong presence in the 12-and-a-half lap discipline this year.
“My training is going on well,” she says. “I am working hard and praying to God for good health and that everything else goes well. In my races this year, I will watch and hope to see continuous progress. I know all will go well with good training.”
Beatrice Chebet races in the 5000m final at the World Athletics Championships Oregon22 (© Getty Images)
Chebet currently trains in Kericho, on the undulating and beautiful landscapes of Kenyan tea plantations, under coach Gabriel Kiptanui as part of the Kericho Athletics Club.
Being part of the same training group and working with the same coach that guided her during her great 2022 season seems to be a good forecast of what Chebet’s season could look like this year.
“I hope I have another good year, like last year,” she adds.
So far, her career highlight was when, at the age of 18, she won her first gold medal at the World Athletics U20 Championships in Tampere, Finland. It was a tough battle in the final 400m of the race between Chebet and Ethiopia’s Ejgayehu Taye, who Chebet edged at the finish line by a mere 0.10. Taye’s compatriot, Girmawit Gebrzihair, completed the podium.
“Of all the medals and titles that I have ever won, the one that I cherish the most is the world U20 gold medal that I won at the Ratina Stadium in Tampere in 2018,” Chebet says of the 5000m victory that ended a 10-year winning streak by Ethiopian athletes. “It was my first big victory, so I will not forget it.”
Beatrice Chebet wins the women's 5000m at the World U20 Championships in Tampere (© Getty Images)
Since then, Chebet has remained a force to be reckoned with in the women’s 5000m event. She won the African U20 title in 2019 and the African senior title last year in Mauritius, before she claimed her silver medal at the World Championships in Oregon and gold at the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham.
Can she emulate her 2022 success this year? It looks good so far, and a world title in Budapest would be the icing on the cake.
Justin Lagat for World Athletics