Kiplimo, the Primary Five dropout making a splash in athletics

Jacob Kiplimo of Team Uganda competes in the Men's 10,000m Final on day three of the World Athletics Championships Oregon22 at Hayward Field on July 17, 2022 in Eugene, Oregon.   PHOTOS/ AFP

What you need to know:

Humble. Kiplimo’s father died when he was young and his peasant mother could not afford his education but he is living the life.

Jacob Kiplimo no longer needs an introduction. He can no longer be overlooked even when world and Olympic champion Joshua Cheptegei dominates the headlines.
In a conversation with this newspaper before heading to Japan for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics last year, Kiplimo sounded optimistic, saying he was eying nothing less than a podium finish.

READ: Cheptegei, Kiplimo delight at Eugene stage
“I am going to give it my all. I am out to run out my lungs; if I collapse on the track, be it,” he said with his trademark sheepish smile. My prayer is that the 10000m race is run below 26:40sec such that we have less competition in the last five laps. So the trick is to exhaust the opponents so that they don’t have the last strong kick,” Kiplimo, then 21, said.

It is all understandable for him to strike such a commanding tone. He headed into the Olympics as the world number one in the 10000m race having posted the seventh fastest time ever while winning the 25-lap race in Ostrava, Czech Republic, on May 19, 2021.

Bronze medalist Jacob Kiplimo of Team Uganda celebrates during the medal ceremony for the Men's 10,000m Final on day three of the World Athletics Championships Oregon22 at Hayward Field on July 17, 2022 in Eugene, Oregon. PHOTOS/ AFP

Third place
Kiplimo would go on to bag Olympic bronze behind Ethiopia’s Selemon Barega and compatriot Cheptegei.  
Born on November 14, 2000, in Kween District to peasant parents Stephen Arap Simba Chebet and Grace Chesang, Kiplimo did not have the privilege to go beyond Primary Five.
“People laugh at my English, but I am making every effort to improve myself. I try to explain to many people that my background is very humble.

“My parents did not have any money. More so, my father died leaving us with a single mother with no source of income so I did not advance in school,” he says.
The rising star was first noticed during the bitter-sweet World Cross-country Championships in Kololo on March 26, 2017.
Then, just 17, Kiplimo stunned the junior field to win the gold. That day, Cheptegei’s ill fortune was the only thing that dealt Uganda a heavy blow. It was primed to be the best athletics day for the country had Cheptegei not suffered a stitch that forced him to surrender an 11-second lead and finish 30th.

Now a senior
That was Kiplimo’s launchpad. By the next edition of the World Cross-country Championships in Aarhus, Denmark, two years later, he had crossed to the seniors, aged 19.
This time he took the silver behind Cheptegei and ahead of Kenya’s Geoffrey Kamworor who had taken gold in Kampala.

Before those exploits, Kiplimo had been a nobody in the remote village of Chemwoneibei, Tragon Parish, Benet Sub-county in Kween District. He had never dreamt of a big stage or even going into the Olympics. But he had been a fan of three-time Commonwealth Games champion Moses Kipsiro and always wanted to be like him.
His local coach, Peter Chelangat, says he identified the boy from his village where he was famed as a star.
“I had known him in 2014, although we started to work together in 2015. One day, the Uganda Athletics Federation organised a mountain race competition in Kapchorwa. It started from Chepkwatit, on the border between Kapchorwa and Bulambuli districts and ended in Gamatui, just near Sipi Falls. Jacob won that race,” he says.
“We started our training programmes under Arua Club up-to-date,” he adds.

Luck came knocking when Italian athletics management, Rosa Associati, came calling, they were scouting for runners in the talent hub that is Sebei.
“They signed him up; Rosa Federico, the owner of the management company, played a pivotal role. Like the rest of the runners, things started changing. He got better facilitation and training kit,” Chelangat notes.
He attributes all the success Kiplimo has put under his belt to discipline and focus on training. “He is determined, has self-discipline and also helps other upcoming athletes to achieve their dreams,” he says.

Chelangat’s only regret then was even with those earlier exploits, Kiplimo was yet to get ‘anything’ from the government until that changed after the Olympics.
He and other Olympic medallists, Cheptegei and Peruth Chemutai (women’s 3000m steeplechase) were gifted with cars, money and houses for their parents though the latter offer has not been met.

Under the tutelage of Italian manager Iacopo Brasi, Kiplimo got a new home at the Atletica Casone Noceto Club. He has now become an established elite athlete with professional management.

L-R: Silver medalist Stanley Waithaka Mburu of Team Kenya, gold medalist Joshua Cheptegei of Team Uganda and bronze medalist Jacob Kiplimo of Team Uganda pose for a photo during the medal ceremony for the Men's 10,000m Final on day three of the World Athletics Championships Oregon22 at Hayward Field on July 17, 2022 in Eugene, Oregon.  

To leverage on training, Kiplimo says he shifted his training base from Kween to Kapchorwa. After marrying Monesta Kiplimo, he rented a house in Kapchorwa Municipality from where he would access training facilities in the urban setting of Sebei region.
“The town is accessible unlike my village which is hard to reach whenever there is rain. I also concentrate while here,” Kiplimo says.

The father of one daughter says his memorable race is the 2020 Valencia Half-Marathon in Spain on December 6 where he came second.
For all his efforts, his siblings have picked a leaf and nearly all his brothers are aiming to make it in the athletics stage.
This week, Kiplimo added a 10000m World Championships bronze to his Olympic one and you always feel there is more to come.
Kiplimo at major events 

2022 World Championships: 3rd (10000m) 
Tokyo 2020 Olympics: 3rd (10000m)
2020 World Half-Marathon Champs: 1st (21km)
2019 World Cross-country: 2nd (10km)
2018 World Jnr Champs: 2nd (10000m), 6th (5000m)
2018 Commonwealth Games: 4th (10000m)
2017 London World Champs: 22nd (10000m Heats)
2016 Rio Olympics: 26th (5000m Heats)
2016 Jnr Champs: 3rd (10000m)

At a glance
Born: November 14, 2000
Major events: 5000m, 10000m
Coach: Iacorpo Brasi
Personal Bests: 7:26.64 (3000m), 12:48.63 (5000m), 26:33.93 (10000m)
Manager: Federico Rosa
Management: Rosa Associati