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2012 Olympics: Kenyan Track Star Vivian Cheruiyot Is All-Powerful at 84 Pounds

LONDON, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 06:  Long distance runner Vivian Cheruiyot talks to the media after winning the Laureus World Sportswoman of the Year award at the 2012 Laureus World Sports Awards at Queen Elizabeth II Conference Centre on February 6, 2012 in London, England.  (Photo by Tom Shaw/Getty Images for Laureus)
Tom Shaw/Getty Images
John RozumCorrespondent IJuly 24, 2012

Like the Olympic gymnasts who soar into the spotlight every four years, world champion distance runner Vivian Cheruiyot packs huge power into a tiny frame.

Listed at 5'1" and only 84 pounds on about.com and sports-reference.com, Cheruiyot is small even among distance runners, the best of whom are body-fat-free and often shorter than 5'5".

The Kenyan's stature, though, is great as the reigning world champion at 5,000 and 10,000 meters. Though in London she finished third in the 10,000, her 2011 accomplishments earned her recognition as the greatest female athlete in any sport, worldwide.

Known as the "Pocket Rocket," according to Voice of America News, Cheruiyot is smaller than two teammates who will also be in the 5,000, Viola Kibiwott and Sylvia Kibet. They are 5'5", 5'6" and 101 pounds respectively, according to their London 2012 profiles.

By further contrast, U.S. distance Olympian Julie Culley stands at 5'8" and weighs 128 pounds. And Cheruiyot isn't even as tall as  American gymnasts Jordyn Wieber, who is 5'2", and McKayla Maroney, who is 5'3".

Cheruiyot, who is 28 years old, uses her size to her advantage to cover the 5,000 (3.1 miles) and 10,000 meters with unmatched efficiency.

This is her third Olympics. For her winning efforts at the 2011 World Championships in Daegu, South Korea, and at the World Cross Country Championships, Cheruiyot was named the Laureus World Sportswoman of the Year.

Cheruiyot did not rest on those laurels.

In 2008, Ethiopian Tirunesh Dibaba won both the the 5,000 and 10,000. Cheruiyot is out to restore her country's good name as the distance-running capital of the world:

"I am not afraid of the Ethiopians," she said in the Malaysia Star Online"They have dominated the Olympics in the past. I believe it is our turn in London. I have prepared very well and I am ready to meet them again."

In her first meeting with Dibaba, in Friday's 10,000 final, Cheruiyot could not keep up, as Dibaba took gold. Sally Kipyego of Kenya was second, ahead of Cheruiyot. So the Pocket Rocket must now set her sights on the 5,000.

Follow John Rozum on Twitter.

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