Joshua Cheptegei expectedly closed Uganda’s show in style by landing the 10000m title as the IAAF World Athletics Championships climaxed in the Qatari capital on Sunday night.
He yet again created new heights for the East African nation in long-distance track athletics after he delivered a strong finish to wade off Ethiopian foe Yomif Kejelcha to win in a world lead time of 26 minutes and 48.36 seconds.
“It is a proud moment for me and my country,” Cheptegei told journalists moments after receiving his medal from IAAF Council Member Vivian Gungaram at the Khalifa International Stadium.
“I am really super proud of myself,” he said after becoming the first Ugandan male to win a track title at the Worlds.
This was Uganda’s second gold medal in Doha after Halimah Nakaayi’s 800m triumph, making it the country’s best show ever at the Worlds.
For the first time in history, Uganda made it to the top 10, sharing ninth place with Netherlands who hinged on Ethiopian-born Sifan Hassan’s 1500m and 10000m titles. USA topped the charts with 14 golds of 29 medals.
“Absolutely fantastic,” Cheptegei stated after Uganda finished as the third best African country behind Kenya and Ethiopia. Since 1987, Uganda has now amassed eight medals at the Worlds.
“I believe that the whole world knows that Uganda is really capable of running in middle and long distance. And really, we thank the federation, our coaches, our managements and the government for trying to put the support for the athletes.”
The previous men’s 10000m world titles had been won by four countries Italy, Kenya, Ethiopia and Great Britain but Uganda joined that list after Cheptegei’s tactics hit perfection.
At the London Worlds two years ago, Cheptegei came second behind Briton Mo Farah in the 25-lap final.
After a Commonwealth double under his belt last year, he however needed to recoup his body after a road accident in December year, recovering to win the IAAF World Cross-country Championship title in Aarhus, Denmark on March 30 and then adding the 5000m trophy from the IAAF Diamond League on August 29.
“The accident was a big set-back. Winning the Diamond League was a big boost for me that I could win the world title.”
Here, his counterpart Abdallah Mande pulled the field early, crossing the first 3000m in 8:08.23 minutes.
“Everything went according to plan,” remarked Mande, who had finished in a distant 17th place with 28:31.49. “After the 3000m, I told Joshua to go and we are happy that he has won this,” he added.
“In London, I learnt a lot of things. I came here prepared for all the things. I had plan A, I had plan B and C. This was just plan A,” Cheptegei stated.
Then, Cheptegei exchanged leads with World junior champion Kenyan Rhonex Kipruto as the pack narrowed to eight runners with six laps left.
When the lap signal turned red, indicating 1200m to go, Cheptegei took the lead and never looked back. Kejelcha attempted to stop him after the bell but the Ugandan wrapped up a well-controlled race with 55.39 seconds over the final 400m to win his fourth championship title in 17 months.
“When I saw Kejelcha, I made a gesture and I wanted to make a difference between the silver I won in London 2017 and I never wanted to win the silver again.
“So I really had to motivate myself to become a champion. That is why I kept going until the finish line,” added Cheptegei whose next task is to break the 10K world record at Valencia Trinidad Alfonso in Spain on December 1.
2019 medal table
Country Gold Silver Bronze Total
United States 14 11 4 29
Kenya 5 2 4 11
Jamaica 3 5 3 11
China 3 3 3 9
Ethiopia 2 5 1 8
Great Britain 2 3 0 5
Germany 2 0 4 6
Japan 2 0 1 3
Netherlands 2 0 0 2
Uganda 2 0 0 2