Kampala. Joshua Cheptegei continues to script landmarks in his track career, perhaps even better than his predecessors.
Uganda has a list of its greats over the years in track long-distance athletics with names Boniface Kiprop and Moses Kipsiro in bold.
At 22, Cheptegei has already had a slice of success like theirs and 2018 did not offer less from his spikes.
He emerged as Uganda’s best athlete at the Commonwealth Games on the Gold Coast in Australia thanks to the double gold over the 5000m and 10000m at the Cararra Stadium.
In that, Cheptegei had emulated Moses Kipsiro’s feat earned in 2010 when he claimed the double in New Delhi, India.
His 10000m triumph was however a classic. Cheptegei broke Kenyan Wilberforce Talel’s Games’ record that had stood for 16 years to set a new one at 27:19.62 minutes on April 13.
After Gold Coast, it turned out Cheptegei had gone against his Global Sport Communication managers’ programme to run the double, consequently sitting out for five months with a right knee problem.
His return had no change in results, reaching the tape first remaining the order of the day.
He bagged wins at the Dam tot Damloop in Netherlands in September and then the Durban 10K in October before sealing the year with a 15km world record win at the Seven Hills Run in November.
Cheptegei, who survived a nasty accident recently, won six of his seven races in 2018, an improvement from seven top-four finish in eight races in 2017. He will be itching to be at the Doha World Championships in September.
For years, Uganda’s athletics stories have been written by men with a few headlines hogged by a handful like Catherine Webombesa, Dorcus Inzikuru, Winnie Nanyondo and Dorcus Ajok. Back on the Gold Coast, Uganda won its first Commonwealth track title by a lady when Stella Chesang powered to 10000m gold.
She was accompanied on the podium by the in-form Merycline Chelangat who took bronze with Kenyan Stacy Ndiwa taking silver.
The ‘Che’ story did not stop there for the Ugandan long-distance running ladies. Later on October 7, Juliet Chekwel, who had come seventh over the 25-lap race in Australia, took the gold after winning the women’s 21km race at the inaugural Commonwealth Half-Marathon Championships in Cardiff, Wales.
Prior in July, Peruth Chemutai had covered up for her medal miss on the Gold Coast by winning silver in the 3000m steeplechase at the World Junior Championships in Bydgoszcz, Poland.
At the same event, teenage sensation Jacob Kiplimo missed out on the 10000m title, settling for silver behind Kenyan Rhonex Kipruto.
Earlier on the Gold Coast, Kiplimo had done the ‘dirty work’ with Timothy Toroitich for Cheptegei but he came fourth in the 10000m final.
But Solomon Mutai battled the heat to ensure the marathon event keeps giving for the nation. He could not beat home boy and defending champion Australian Michael Shelley but was good for silver.
Harvest in Asaba
Notwithstanding Kiplimo’s strong finish in the IAAF Cross-country Permit, Toroitich’s reward came with him winning his first senior individual medal at the Africa Senior Athletics Championships in Asaba, Nigeria.
Having arrived on Day One of the tournament thanks to the Ogas’ disorder, Toroitich found his way to snatch bronze in the 10000m final, Uganda’s first medal at the Championship in six years.
It even got better as Ronald Musagala too won his first career medal, taking bronze in the 1500m final, the country’s only success on track outside long-distance at major events in 2018.
Then teenager Josephine Lalam sealed it with a rare javelin bronze, and the country’s first honour in the discipline in 28 years.
The delight on the continent in the year had begun in March when Thomas Ayeko won senior men’s bronze at the Africa Cross-country Championships in Chlef, Algeria.