Joshua Cheptegei lived up to his favourite-tag billing as he beat a field of 37 runners to win the 10,000m race on the opening day of the IAAF World Junior Championships in Oregon, USA.
In the morning hours of yesterday, Cheptegei broke away from Kenyan duo Elvis Cheboi and Nicholas Kosimbei in the final lap to finish in a best time of 28:32.86 at the Hayward Field.
The feat ended Uganda’s four-year medal drought at the Championships and Cheptegei was clearly proud of his achievement. “I’m so very happy and elated. My family in Uganda is very happy,” he told iaaf.org.
And despite a slow start, he kept his cool. “Starting slow and finishing fast is how I usually run. I didn’t give up. I knew things would change during the race.” Cheptegei said.
The 17-year-old was part of the chasing pack which overtook early leaders in Japanese pair Keisuke Nakatani and Hazuma Hattori prior to the 7000m mark.
And when the leading group thinned down to five, it consisted of the two Kenyans, two Ugandans (Cheptegei and Abdallah Mande, who eventually finished fifth) and Eritrean Afewerki Berhane.
Berhane was the first off the back, then Mande, leaving three men to contest three medals. Cheboi clocked 28:35.20 while Kosimbei posted 28:38.68.
Cheptegei, gold medalist at this year’s World University Cross-Country Championships in Entebbe, ran 59.6 in the final 400m to not only repeat Boniface Kiprop’s feat at the 2004 edition in Grosseto, Italy but also earn Uganda her fourth gold in the Championships’ history.
Meanwhile, another Ugandan Stella Chesang will line-up alongside 14 others in women’s 5000m final in the early hours of today. Ethiopian Heroye Alemitu is favourite.
UGANDA’s WJC MEDAL RECORD
GOLD (4): Joshua Cheptegei (10, 000), Boniface Kiprop (10, 000m), Catherine Webombesa (10,000m), Dorcus Inzikuru (5, 000m)
SILVER (1): Benjamin Kiplagat (3,000m steeplechase)
BRONZE (5): Jacob Araptany (3000m steeplechase), Annet Negesa (800m), Abraham Chepkirwok (800m), Paskwar Owor (800m)
TOTAL: 10 MEDALS