Chebet looks beyond Budapest, promises to deliver World record

The most recent accomplishment that added lustre to her already glittering career was the 10km title she claimed in Bathurst, Australia.

In Summary

• Having already tucked away a string of titles, Chebet reckons she still possesses the mojo to unravel more surprises. 

Beatrice Chebet (in yellow) leads 5,000m pack in a past race
Beatrice Chebet (in yellow) leads 5,000m pack in a past race
Image: FILE

World-cross country gold medalist Beatrice Chebet is in a class of her own. 

Aged only 23, the newly minted National Police Service officer is already producing shockwaves across the globe.  

Chebet, who is currently perfecting her act in the lush landscape of Kericho County under seasoned coach Gabriel Kiptanui, has dared the world in the face and reaped the fruits of her gallantry. 

The most recent accomplishment that added lustre to her already glittering career was the 10km title she claimed in Bathurst, Australia. Yet, the soft-spoken athlete remains unbelievably humble and dignified in the wake of her blossoming career. 

"This is only the beginning and I believe a lot more is still to come," Chebet says, her face breaking into an infectious smile.

 Having already tucked away a string of titles, Chebet reckons she still possesses the mojo to unravel more surprises. 

Beatrice Chebet celebrates after clinching the women's 5000m title at the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games.
Beatrice Chebet celebrates after clinching the women's 5000m title at the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games.
Image: FILE

Her ability on the track and course has never been in doubt. She has already demonstrated pure class on the international stage and will rely on her impressive track record to enrich her trophy cabinet with more medals this season. 

The runner is fulfilling her goal to the fullest, having plunged into a game she is so much passionate about. Nobody compelled her to participate in the sport; she simply followed her desire. 

Born on March 5, 2000, Chebet's story stretches back to a humble beginning in Londiani, Kericho County, "My interest in athletics began at a tender age. Nobody talked me into joining the sports. I just loved running. I began running in December 2015 when I was only 16 years old," Chebet said.

"I'm the second-born in a family of seven children. I attended Kapkorech primary school where I sat for my Kenya Certificate of Primary Education (KCPE) in 2010. I proceeded to Samarek Secondary School which is near an athletics training camp."

Chebet dedicated her meteoric rise to her parents Francis Kirui and Lilian Chepkoech whose support and prayers have been the foundation of her success.

"They've always been there for me in good and bad times. It has not been easy but it’s all about discipline and hard work," she adoringly speaks of them.

Among her siblings, only their last-born brother Enock Kipngetich — a pupil at St Patrick's primary school  — has shown some interest in pursuing athletics. 

  "I'm ready to support him when he starts running and push him to any heights he desires to reach in athletics," Chebet said.

Chebet's star started shining when she stormed the World Under-20 5,000m title in 2018, aged only 18 years at that time. A month later, she became the first Kenyan woman to win the World U20 Championships 5000m title, and the first non-Ethiopian to do so since 2006.

At the 2019 IAAF World Cross Country Championships, the top three athletes in the Women’s U20 category — Chebet and the Ethiopian duo of Alemitu Tariku and Tsigie Gebreselama —all finished in 20:50.

"I recall that day vividly. Tariku was initially declared the winner, with Gebreselama receiving silver. However, after reviewing the photo finish footage, I was correctly awarded the gold."

Chebet also won the Kenyan U20 National Cross Country Championships in 2019. Her fruits came several years after she had toiled unnoticed while learning the basics of her trade in school competitions.

"My first international appearance was in 2017 during the World Under18  Championships at Kasarani where I placed third in the 3000m," she added.

Beatrice Chebet after a past race
Beatrice Chebet after a past race
Image: FILE

She rose to global acclamation for the first time as a senior athlete in July 2022 when she pulled off a sublime performance at the World Championships in Eugene, Oregon, to bag the silver medal in the 5000m race which she finished in 14:46.75.

She describes her feat in Bathurst, Australia as the greatest day in her illustrious career spanning several years now. "My best moment as an athlete was during the 2023 World Cross-country Championships in Bathurst, Australia in February, where I won a gold medal in the 10km race."

Chebet reckons that her masterstroke performance in Australia has fueled her desire for success.

The soft-spoken and petite athlete who sports a flashy mohawk shave blazed to the winner's podium in Australia after pulling off a shock victory over pre-race favourite Ethiopian Letesenbet Gidey who fell  metres to the finish line. Tsigie Gebreselama placed second.

To win the gold, Chebet outperformed Gebreselama (33:56) and her fellow countrywoman Agnes Ngetich (34:00).

"I never for a moment believed I'd be on the podium in Australia. I was conscious of the bad state of my body. Only by taking the chance and psychologically preparing myself for the challenge did I achieve and I'm happy that I did," Chebet added.

"Winning the gold medal is no little accomplishment and I thank God for that. Competition in sports is challenging. I had initially prepared myself psychologically to accept second place because it seemed like my opponent would easily win the race after a tough challenge."

Her voyage to Australia nearly came to a halt due to a snag in the nascent stages. Concerns had been raised about her inclusion in the women’s senior team after she failed to complete the full stretch of her race during the trials held in December.

Beatrice Chebet finishes ahead of Margaret Kipkemboi in Zurich.
Beatrice Chebet finishes ahead of Margaret Kipkemboi in Zurich.
Image: NOCK

However, Team Kenya head coach Julius Kirwa jumped to her defence, noting that she was picked on the strength of her splendid run on the international stage.

"We had to include some athletes who were not part of the top eight and they did better in training so they get the chance to form part of Team Kenya,” Kirwa said.

“We were determined to field the best team possible, so that’s what informed the changes,” he added.

Kirwa said Chebet took the place of Irene Cheptai, who finished third in the women’s 10km race at the National Cross Country Championships but was ruled out due to an Achilles tendon injury.

Chebet went on to light up the course and took the battle to her opponents in Bathurst. Two months after winning the World Cross-Country title in Bathurst, Australia, she was at it again.

Just as she had pledged, Chebet obliterated the women's 5,000m field at the Kip Keino Classic in Nairobi on May 13, clocking 15:15.82 to stand atop the podium at the 60,000-capacity Moi Stadium, Kasarani Arena.

She beat Margaret Kipkemboi Chelimo to second in 15:16.28 with Judith Kiyeng, the young sister to former world 3,000m steeplechase champion Hyvine Kiyeng settling for third position.

"It was my first race this season and I'm longing for a better year because I was here to test my speed and endurance. My season will even get better with many races lined up."

Chebet has vowed to cap off her splendid streak of success with one more vintage performance at the upcoming World Championships in Budapest, Hungary, in August.

"I'll be concentrating on the track in Budapest, Hungary, and I'm confident that I can excel. I was quite driven to compete in the World Cross Country Championships in Australia. I had a nice foundation to build on as I got ready for the 2017 World Championships," Chebet said.

The National Police Service officer said that her aspirations to storm to the gold podium in Hungary are now unstoppable after her Australian landmark victory.

She will be eyeing another glory in the women's 5,000m after scooping a silver medal during the bristling Oregon 22 championships in the USA last year.

Chebet has pledged to light up the track in Budapest, adding that she will not rest on her laurels until she realises her solemn dream of shattering the world record.

"Fortunately, the course of events shows that people can achieve their goals if they keep trying. Even athletes of a calibre who are regarded as unstoppable can be defeated with attention and drive."

"In Australia, I motivated myself and had faith in my ability to win a gold medal. Now I can do anything, even break a world record. Now all I have to do is continue my training and practice the necessary discipline."

Chebet also revealed he hopes to dominate her specialty in the Diamond League, which officially started in Doha, Qatar on May 5.

She hopes to replicate the sublime form that catapulted her to the women’s 5000m title during the Weltklasse Zurich 2022 Diamond League at Stadion Letzigrund on September 07, 2022.

There, she wrapped up in 14:31.03 to dazzle a star-studded field that included double Olympic champion Sifan Hassan and Ethiopia’s Gudaf Tsegay, pocketing Sh3.6 million in prize purse and a silverware in the process.

"I'm training hard to perform well in Nairobi. Thereafter, I will be aiming to bag wins in the Diamond League. I'm particularly focused on the races in Oslo (June 15) and London ( July 23)."

After lighting up the Hayward Field Track in Eugene, Oregon to storm to the silver during last year's World Championships, Chebet has vowed to run away with the title in Brussels come August.

"My main target is the World Championships in Budapest, Hungary in August. I'm glad I earned a wildcard to the championships after winning the Diamond League last season.

"I'm targeting to improve my Personal Best time. I've previously done a 14:31  but I'd like to lower that to 14:30. Chebet has urged budding athletes to brush aside all manner of distractions that have the potential to sway them unnecessarily from their ultimate prize.

"To achieve success in life they only need to be disciplined and focused on what they do. That's the only path to success," Chebet said.