Kenya's poster girl Cherono relishing chance to dazzle in Rio
Nairobi, July 31 (IANS) Mercy Cherono is simply Kenya's athletics poster girl, with her dashing smile illuminating international championships since she announced herself to the world as the women 3,000 metres junior champion at the Bydgoszcz 2008 edition in Poland.
From television adverts to billboards, the 25-year-old from the northwestern region of Kericho has grown from a shy but precocious talent into a fashion symbol in a sport that has placed her nation on the global map, reports Xinhua.
At the 2014 Commonwealth Games, Cherono gave a reminder of her abilities when she won gold in the women's 5,000m final, having taken the second medal at the 2013 IAAF World Championships at the distance.
However, what would have been her Olympics debut in London 2012 was erased by injury and having qualified in the Kenyan 5,000m team, Cherono was eager to make up for lost time but her build-up for Rio 2016 was blighted by the court case facing her Italian coach, Claudio Berardelli, who is out on bail on charges related to doping.
"I have been forced to miss training to travel to Nairobi to support him because we believe he is being framed. It has disturbed me and my colleagues," she rued, her beautiful face dulled by dark rings of despair.
To realise her medal dream in Brazil, Cherono faces arguably the toughest test of her rewarding career, having trailed four-time world champion Vivian Cheruiyot and women 3,000m world indoor champion Helen Obiri across the line in distant third at the Kenya Trials for Rio 2016 in Eldoret in 15:25.51.
"I was really excited to qualify, I had been praying for it since last year so I' m really excited. If we co-operate and be one as a team everything is possible," she stated having run 15:01.36 for fifth at the 2015 IAAF World Championships in Beijing.
"I' m working hard trying to do my best. It' s not fair for our coach to be going what he is going through and we need his case to end so that we can concentrate," she emphasised.
Cherono hates to lose and every time she disappoints on the track, she often bursts to tears especially when wearing her cherished red, green and black Kenyan strip.
"I don' t know about emotions because it just comes but you try to maintain it the best way you can," the 2007 World Youth champion in 3000m explained.
Her stunning looks have brought her more fame that her achievements in the sport domestically, having grown to a social media darling with every picture she posts on social media going viral, appearing in Kenya's biggest television shows and adverts.
Suitors from far and wide have vied for her affections but she deftly ducks the question of whether anyone has been lucky to win her heart.
"I' m engaged to the Olympics. Nothing else but the Olympics," she said flashing one of her famous smile that melts many a heart.
A couple of years ago, she told a local television station that she was keen on taking up golf as a pastime outside athletics but the more mature version of the pinup girl has adopted a rather somber hobby.
"I love reading to relax. Helps me gain more knowledge, since there is life outside athletics," the Kenya Police Service officer, who is often engaged at the force's parade during national celebrations to show the glamorous part of law enforcement, replied with a grin.
Beside the international competition fronted by London 2012 women 10000m silver medallist, Cheruiyot, 32 and Obiri who has recently returned from attending to maternal duties, the Kenyans force the formidable force that is world women 5000m champion from Beijing 2015, Ethiopia's Almaz.