Uganda’s stellar long-distance runner Joshua Cheptegei is back on the lips of the nation.
Cheptegei on Sunday dominated status updates on social media after breaking the 5km world record (WR) at the Monaco Run Herculis in France.
The Nike-sponsored runner started the most important year of his career in desired fashion by stunning the Monaco crowd with a powerful show to cross the black tape amid cheers in a time of 12 minutes and 51 seconds.
“Wow, this is really great,” a thrilled Cheptegei said. He smashed the 13-minute barrier with grit from his body in a solo race from the gun.
Yet, it appeared easy in the eyes of spectators watching online and in the Mediterranean Principality.
“I had sub 13-minutes in my mind today so when my legs felt good during the race I decided to really go for it. To take this many seconds off the record makes me very happy and is a great first test for me in an important season,” added Cheptegei.
His coach Addy Ruiter was wowed by the commanding show. “When I look at the time very well, and without pacers. Totally alone!” he remarked.
Cheptegei’s ultimate goal for the year is the 10,000m title at the Olympic Games in Tokyo, Japan, later this year.
The 23-year-old is, however, seeming to be untouchable at the moment. This is a second WR by Cheptegei in a space of 77 days having set that of the 10km distance while winning the Valencia Trinidad Alfonso in Spain on December 1.
In Monaco, Cheptegei trimmed 27 seconds off the previous WR of 13:18 set by Kenyan Rhonex Kipruto en route to the new 10km WR he set in Valencia on January 12.
The feat earned Cheptegei recogonition from President Museveni in a tweet: “Uganda is proud of you and we look forward to even greater performances, especially at the Tokyo Olympics,” it read.
Cheptegei was followed by home boy Jimmy Gressier who posted 13:18, also a new European record eclipsing 13:29 by Julien Wanders as he won this same event last year.
Before Tokyo, Cheptegei opted to debut over the 21km distance and he will run at the World Half-Marathon Champions in Gdynia, Poland on March 29.
“I want to go to the race and do something different where there is no pressure. May be I am on the podium, maybe I am not, maybe I win it,” he said in a recent interview.
1 Joshua Cheptegei (UGA) 12:51
2 Jimmy Gressier (FRA) 13:18