Uganda has not won a medal in three World University Cross-country Championships attempts.
But as hosts, there is reason to go into today’s 19th edition at Entebbe Golf Course with some hope.
Even then, failure to step on the podium will not be considered catastrophic. By winning hosting rights alone, Uganda has already scored highly. When the starter’s gun is fired, Uganda will be confirmed as only the second African country after Algeria (2006) to host the prestigious event. Watching Ugandans will hope that Joshua Cheptegei can produce a master-class and lead his colleagues to a team medal. Just like hos teammates, Cheptegei may not be considered a favourite for an individual medal but he has what it takes to trouble opponents. Of Uganda’s seven male representatives in today’s 12km race, Cheptegei is the only one who made the national team grade for last weekend’s Africa Cross-country Championships at Kololo Airstrip.
The 19-year-old runner was the country’s best junior runner at Kololo, finishing seventh (23:18.71) in the 8km event. After a very terrific start, Cheptegei rubbed shoulders with the leading pack in the earlier exchanges but seemed to run out of steam towards the end.
“I got a stitch after the first lap. I could have pushed harder,” Cheptegei said after the race won by Kenyan Moses Letoyie (22:36.80). “But my focus is now on the World University Cross-country. I want to make amends.”
Kampala University’s Julius Ochieng is another runner fancied to do well. Ochieng won the trial race organised to pick the final team at Kololo last Wednesday and there are little doubts about his confidence.
Martin Chemtingen, Sam Cherop, Edward Mukasa, Kennedy Nuwahereza, Benjamin Njia and Allan Mukweta complete Uganda’s men’s team.
As is always the case, the women’s 8km race is expected to be unpredictable but Uganda will look to Winnie Nannyondo, the national trials winner, Margaret Lubagu, Dorcus Ajok, Prim Twikirize, Lillian Anzazi and Annet Chebet. Africa has produced one female and five male winners since the maiden edition in 1978.