Ugandan long-distance runner Joshua Cheptegei would probably have been an Olympic champion by now if all were normal.
Disruptions brought about by the coronavirus pandemic have however altered his 2020 goals.
Cheptegei won’t win a track championship medal but he wants his attempt for a world record (WR) to reach fruition when he lines-up for the 5000m race at the Monaco Diamond League (DL) in French city of Monaco tonight.
“I am ready!” he said after warm-ups with his training partner Stephen Kissa at Stade Louis II early this week.
Three road records
Cheptegei has set three WR marks since 2018 and all have been on road. He now gears to run the 12-and-a-half lap race below 12:37.35 set by Ethiopian great Kenenisa Bekele on May 31, 2004.
“Cheptegei is good enough for a WR when the conditions are right,” said his coach Addy Ruiter. Weekly training sessions were inevitably cut from 12 to eight per week but Cheptegei, whose personal best is at 12:57.41, has beaten that WR in time trials.
“First time, he had bad luck as there was too much wind. The next three times he succeeded,” said Ruiter. “But this WR is the most difficult one for Joshua to beat,” he reckoned.
But, Cheptegei, who won the 5000m DL trophy last year, is keen on taking another step of greatness with his first track WR.
“I want to discover the limits, my limits. If you believe in something, anything is possible,” he said in a recent interview.
“Breaking a record was something really difficult, but when you know the right way, it’s not difficult anymore. So, the next challenge is to go chase one or two more WR. I would be the happiest person in the world,” he added.
The 23-year-old will be aided by three pace-setters in order of Dutch Roy Hoornweg, Kissa and Australian Matthew Ramsden to the half-way mark.
The quartet is in an odd 5000m field of 16 runners that comprises only four Africans, understandably because of Covid-19 travel restrictions, the other pair being Kenyans Jacob Krop and Nicholas Kipkorir.
Monaco DL has attracted seven global champions including 800m world champion Ugandan Halimah Nakaayi (pictured below) who will face-off with 1500m world champion Kenyan Faith Kipyegon over the 1000m race.
That nine-man field also has Nakaayi’s partner Winnie Nanyondo, American Raevyn Rogers but Briton Laura Muir has the best time at 2:33.92.