The postponement of the Tokyo Olympic Games to next July because of the coronavirus pandemic shattered plans for many sports stars including Ugandan Joshua Cheptegei.
After a perfect 2019 which included a World Cross-country title, the 5000m Diamond League trophy, 10000m world gold and the 10km World Record (WR), Cheptegei was staring at more glory this year.
He even intensified his credentials for the 10000m Olympic gold medal by taking 27 seconds off the previous mark to rewrite the 5km WR to 12:51 minutes at the Monaco Run in France on February 16.
Regardless, the coronavirus disruptions haven’t shifted Cheptegei’s eyes off the prize. “We have set strong targets which motivate him a lot,” his manager Jurrie van der Velden of Global Sports Communication (GSC) told Daily Monitor this week. The 23-year-old is set to return to Monaco for the 5000m race during the third leg of the Wanda Diamond League (DL) series at French Ligue 1 club AC Monaco’s home Stade Louis II on August 14.
This was agreed after the 5km WR five months ago. “We felt like Monaco DL in July would be a perfect moment to run 5000m as a last test for Olympics and we spoke with the organiser about it and he was supporting the idea,” says Jurrie.
But it is not just about Cheptegei gracing the Monaco track. “We are shooting for the WR. Monaco usually has very good weather conditions and a great track.”
The WR over the 12-and-a-half-lap race is at 12:37.45 set by Ethiopian Kenenisa Bekele on May 31, 2004 in Hengelo, Netherlands.
Since that feat last 16 years ago, his country mate Selemon Barega is the one who has come closest to that WR with 12:43.02 in Brussels, Belgium two years ago.
Going by his personal best of 12:57.41 which he set while winning the DL trophy in Zurich, Switzerland last August, Cheptegei is 20 seconds from the target but Jurrie believes the lockdown only got his act better.
“He’s doing well, even better than ever,” the Dutchman notes. However, Uganda still has travel restrictions in place with Entebbe Airport still closed because of Covd-19. GSC is planning on ways of taking Cheptegei to Monaco. “We’re working on that from various angles. Yeah it’s not easy, but if things were easy anyone would be successful,” added Jurrie. And WRs have fallen before at the Monaco DL. Last year, Dutch girl Sifan Hassan obliterated the mile WR to 4:12.33.
In 2018, Kenyan Beatrice Chepkoech posted the 3000m steeplechase WR of 8:44.32, so did Ethiopian Genzebe Dibaba deliver the 1500m best time ever in 2015.
CHEPTEGEI AT THE DIAMOND LEAGUE
May 29: Eugene, USA: 8th, 27:27.57 (10,000m)
May 14: Shanghai, China: 2nd, 13:00.60 (5,000m)
May 28: Eugene, USA: 8th, 13:07.53 (5,000m)
May 27: Eugene, USA: 4th, 13:02.84 (5,000m)
July 6: Lausanne, Switzerland: 3rd, 12:59.83 (5,000m)
May 18: Shanghai, China: 7th, 13:06.68 (5,000m)
June 13: Oslo, Norway: 2nd, 7:33.26 (3,000m)
June 30: Eugene, USA: 1st, 8:07.54 (Two miles)
Aug 29: Zürich, Switzerland: 1st, 12:57.41 (5,000m)