Cheptegei's third chance
What you need to know:
- Charisma. Olympic Gold and Silver medalist Joshua Cheptegei made the 10-man shortlist for Male Athlete of the Year Award, a third consecutive nomination.
Joshua Cheptegei no longer needs to prove himself. He has stamped his mark over the global long-distance running web after scooping nearly everything on offer since 2018.
The 25-year-old etched his name in Uganda’s history books as the country’s greatest athlete ever after winning the 10000m silver medal and 5000m gold medal at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics in Japan.
And whereas he was nominated with nine others for the Male Athlete of the Year Award by World Athletics, he’s left his 2021 achievements to the jury to decide if he can make the five-man shortlist whose winner will be crowned in December. This is the third year in a row that Cheptegei has been nominated for this accolade.
In 2019, he stood the chance after claiming the World Cross-country title in Aarhus, Denmark, winning the world 10000m title in the Qatari capital Doha and the 5000m Diamond League (DL) trophy.
By the time he set the 10km world record (WR) in Valencia, Spain, he had already been nominated. However, his mentor Kenyan Eliud Kipchoge, arguably the greatest marathoner ever, won the top prize.
Last year, in a spell where the world masked up in bow to the coronavirus pandemic, Cheptegei broke the WRs over the 5km and 5000m in Monaco, France before taking the 10000m WR as well from Ethiopian great Kenenisa Bekele in Valencia. He ended the jumbled year by taking fourth place and winning a team bronze medal at the World Half-Marathon Championships in Gdynia, Poland. Somehow, it is pole vaulter Swede Armand Duplantis who won the coveted prize.
This time, Cheptegei will count his chances again as he is the only nominee who stepped onto the podium twice in Tokyo.
He will however, regret giving a lot of respect to the humid conditions in the National Stadium on July 30 otherwise, had he bravely stepped up the pace to join his pseudo pacemaker Stephen Kissa upfront, Cheptegei would have obliterated the field over the 25-lap final in Tokyo.
Making up for errors
But a slow race materialised, leaving room to six men who desired the podium upon the bell.
Cheptegei and his counterpart Jacob Kiplimo charged late from sixth and fifth respectively at 9600m and by the time their superb kicks had eliminated three men, they couldn’t catch Ethiopian Selemon Barega who would eventually win the gold.
Cheptegei made up for that ‘error’ by combining with Kiplimo and the latter’s younger brother Oscar Chelimo to win the 5000m final on August 6.
After the post-Olympic celebrations saw him set a world leading time over the two-mile race where he also put Barega in his place, winning in 8:09.55 at the Hayward Field during the Eugene DL in USA on August 21.
Besides missing the Olympic gold over his favourite track race, Cheptegei rued the wind too in his attempt to claim the 3000m WR at the Ostrava Golden Spike Meeting in Czech Republic on May 19.
But his opposition for the top prize this time has Duplantis again who, besides expectedly winning the Olympic gold, added the DL and European indoor pole vault titles.
Then American Ryan Crouser was undefeated all year in shot put, taking the Olympic and DL titles and the icing on the cake were WRs both indoor and outdoor.
Cheptegei’s mountain could be steeper as well because of 400m hurdler Karsten Warholm who did a world 300m hurdles best before obliterating the WR and later taking the Olympic and DL titles.
Warholm’s countrymate Jakob Ingebrigtsen can’t be overlooked either. He stunned Kenyan Timothy Cheruyiot to the 1500m title and he scooped European records over that distance and the 5000m.
By ably defending the Olympic marathon crown with the largest winning margin of time since 1972, Kipchoge makes the list too.
There will be a three-way voting process with World Athletics Council members taking 50 percent of the vote. World Athletics Family will as well vote via email but their contribution is 25 percent to the vote while fans who will vote online via World Athletics’ social media platforms have their composition at 25 percent.
The final five will be announced after November 6 before the Awards the following month.
WORLD ATHLETICS AWARDS
MALE ATHLETE OF THE YEAR AWARD
Joshua Cheptegei UGANDA
Ryan Crouser USA
Mondo Duplantis SWEDEN
Jakob Ingebrigtsen NORWAY
Eliud Kipchoge KENYA
Pedro Pichardo PORTUGAL
Daniel Stahl SWEDEN
Miltiadis Tentoglou GREECE
Damian Warner CANADA
Karsten Warholm NORWAY