Halimah Nakaayi’s 800m gold on Monday night was a huge surprise for Uganda and probably the country is still celebrating it.
The nation’s delight could increase even more should race favourite Joshua Cheptegei run perfectly in the men’s 10000m final as the IAAF World Athletics Championships close at the Khalifa International Stadium tonight.
After 19 others are done, Cheptegei in company of Abdallah Mande will close Uganda’s show with commentators, pundits and scribes tipping the former to win this 25-lap race. “Looking forward to Sunday’s race,” Cheptegei stated in a recent post on social media.
Since making the top 10 places over the long-distance double at the 2016 Rio Olympics, Cheptegei’s target was: “Try get the 5000m and 10000m titles in Doha 2019 and then do the same again, God willing at Tokyo 2020 Olympics,” he remarked in a recent interview.
However, Cheptegei was stunned when he capitulated in bizarre mode to lose the lead and finish 30th at the World Cross-country Championships in front of President Museveni in Kololo on March 26, 2017.
Since then, his response to the naysayers has been stellar. He finished second behind Briton Mo Farah at the 2017 London Worlds in a personal best time of 26:49.94 and quickly won the 2018 Commonwealth double in Australia before a knee problem.
He recovered in time to get the 15km world record in November and was perfect enough to obliterate the field to the World cross-country title in Aarhus, Denmark six months ago.
Cheptegei, who won the IAAF Diamond League 5000m trophy in Zurich on August 29, could have doubled here in Doha but the 12-and-half-lap race came first.
“He has the endurance and once the 5000m came first on schedule, we decided to concentrate on 10000m,” his coach Addy Ruiter said.
Cheptegei’s biggest rivals also chose to skip the 5000m; that is Ethiopians Yomif Kejelcha and Hagos Gebrhiwet.
“The 10000m is more competitive than the past years. His training has been going very well but we do not how good the others are. So that’s the only question. Cheptegei is ready, good and can do it,” his manager Jurrie van der Velden said.
“He is in his best shape ever,” remarked Ruiter. “We have a plan A, B, C and if it fails, D. But races are different, anything can happen but it sometimes comes down to the individual.”
IAAF WORLD CHAMPIONSHIPS
UGANDANS IN ACTION - TODAY
7:40pm: Men’s 1500m Final
8pm: Men’s 10000m Final (Joshua Cheptegei, Abdallah Mande)
LIVE ON SS13
Nakaayi barely rested
If you think Halimah Nakaayi has had some time to celebrate her 800m gold, then you are mistaken. She only got to bed after 2am in the early hours of Tuesday after taking doping tests following her triumph. On Wednesday, she took interviews with BBC, Olympic Channel and CGTN in the morning. She has since been assisting Winnie Nanyondo and Ronald Musagala in warm-ups for the 1500m Heats until the finals.
Kintu leads Ugandans at Khalifa
While the natives have not been a big part of the Championships, countries particularly Norway, Jamaica, Kenya, Ethiopia and Uganda have had significant presence at the Khalifa International Stadium. On average, about 20-50 Ugandans working and living here have supported their athletes on track every day. Sulaiman Kintu in particular has been a key figure in rallying the Ugandans here come to the stadium. The Doha city driver is the one who passed on the flags to Halimah Nakaayi and Winnie Nanyondo upon the 800m triumph on Monday night. He organizes the Ugandans by securing them tickets from the Ugandan Embassy here and sometimes driving some to the stadium.
Thrills at the media
Journalists covering the IAAF World Championships customarily had the feel of the Khalifa International Stadium track with the media race over 800m on Friday afternoon. About 16 Heats comprising eight participants were made by IAAF media team’s Anna Legnani. Swiss journalist Laurent Guillaume posted the best time of 2:01.27, receiving his prize from IAAF president Sebastian Coe. Uganda was represented by yours truly and neither a bad show.