Kenyan born-Bahrain runner Abraham Naibei Cheroben received a hero’s welcome on Tuesday morning in Eldoret after returning to his birthplace fresh off of winning the silver medal at Saturday’s IAAF World Half Marathon Championship in Valencia.
The 25-year-old trailed age mate and three-time champion Geoffrey Kipsang Kamworor (also of Kenya), across the line in 60:22 to add the World Half silver to his 10th finish over 10,000m at the Rio 2016 Olympics.
But instead of going to his adopted nation of Bahrain for a parade in the capital Manama, Cheroben, who helped the Gulf State win team bronze opted to return to his country of birth where he was welcomed with song and dance at the Eldoret International Airport.
Family, coaches and friends turned the gateway to the headquarters of self-proclaimed ‘County of Champions’ Uasin Gishu into a mosaic of color and celebration as they toasted Cheroben, who won Bahrain their first ever individual medal at the World Half.
Speaking to reporters, Cheroben underlined that his focus was now medaling for his adopted nation at the 2018 Asian Games in Indonesia that will run from Aug. 18 to Sept. 2 that are the mini-Olympics for that part of the world.
“This was a good opportunity for my new country that I represent. The race was not easy but I did my best to ensure that I get my first silver at the World Half,” said Cheroben.
The Bahrain came to the race with the most experience of the fast course having won the Valencia Half twice before but in the end, the blistering closing pace uncorked by his former compatriot Kamworor proved to be too much.
“I was so prepared to win gold but I settled on silver which is not bad for me. I was so prepared and come 2020, I will be in a good position to take the title,” added Cheroben.
The 2017 Copenhagen Half champion (58:40) who anchored his team to win the bronze medal, was accompanied by another Kenyan export, Bahrain Eunice Chebichii Chumba, the fourth finisher in the corresponding women’s race.
His training mate, former world half-marathon silver medalist Leonard Patrick Komon was among those who came to receive the returning medalist.
“As training mates, we prepared him well and prayed for, luckily god answered our prayers and he came with silver,” said the former Berlin Half champion.
His coach Juma Ndiwa says that Cheroben was in good shape to win the gold but lost out to the better athlete on the day.