Cheptegei’s plan

Wednesday April 8 2020

Distance star Cheptegei cannot wait to rake in

Distance star Cheptegei cannot wait to rake in more honours. AFP photo  


The Coronavirus pandemic has put many a sportsman’s calendar on hold.
For many, this was the year for Joshua Cheptegei’s to seal the status as Uganda’s G.O.A.T (Greatest Of All Time).
The long-distance runner had solidly built his craft and had been unanimously tipped for the 10,000m title at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games.
But Covid-19 breakout means Cheptegei will not only wait but also prepare for another 365 days.
“These are difficult times,” said Cheptegei’s coach Addy Ruiter. “But we are still motivated and looking forward.”
Cheptegei, too, accepted the decision to postpone the Games. “I know how athletes feel. It is sad but safety is paramount,” he was quoted by BBC Sport Africa last month.
“I would say: what is fame, what is money without health? What is it? What is the essence of existence when you are not healthy? Life is more important.”
President Yoweri Museveni’s suspension of passenger flights left Dutchman Ruiter trapped at the Global Sports Communication (GSC) camp in Kapchorwa. He had been in the country to give Cheptegei the final notes ahead of the World Half-Marathon Championships earlier set for March 29 in Gdynia, Poland but now pushed to October.
In Gdynia, Cheptegei was set to debut over the 21km distance and Ruiter thinks the reigning World Cross-country and 5,000m Diamond League champion would stun the world again. “Yes, but that title will be in the pocket in October,” he confidently said.
By then, Cheptegei will have had more time to prepare but Ruiter opines differently. “He was already good enough.”
And the tactician could probably be right. Cheptegei had just broken the 5km world record to a time of 12 minutes and 51 seconds at the Monaco Run Herculis in France on February 15. Some 77 days earlier, Cheptegei had also toasted to the 10km world record at the Valencia Trinidad Alfonso in Spain on December 1.
That’s all on the back of a stellar 2019, a Commonwealth double in 2018, 10,000m silver at the 2017 London World Championships and a two top-10 finishes at the Rio 2016 Olympics. If he were a plant, then the biggest fruit - the 10000m Olympic gold - was in offing in Tokyo later this July.
“The last four years has been focused on getting him to his best during Olympics. And you saw in Monaco that we were on the right way,” stated Ruiter. “But we hope that Joshua can show the world his full potential later this year (in Poland).”
Cheptegei’s management at GSC both in Kapchorwa and at the headquarters in Nijmegen, Netherlands insist they have a plan to sustain him through until when the Olympics come July 23, 2021 - August 8, 2021.
“We already had Plan B and Plan C,” says Cheptegei’s manager Jurrie van der Velden.
“Considering the circumstances, we were well prepared to roll out alternative plans.”
While the plans are in place to see Cheptegei win Uganda’s third Olympic gold in history, he will still need quality races.
But the situation bossed by the Coronavirus doesn’t offer any timelines. “We need to know when the events happen so that we know exactly which plan to execute?” Jurrie added.
“We are now continuing to build a better endurance basis. When the virus ceases and event dates are annouced, then we can develop our new program for the rest of the year,” concluded Ruiter.