Cheptegei: Uganda’s best bet

Best.  Olympic, World, World Cross Country and double Commonwealth Champion Joshua Cheptegei. PHOTO/FILE

What you need to know:

  • Joshua Cheptegei has the motivation of potentially becoming the fourth back-to-back world 10,000m champion, after Ethiopians Haile Gebrselassie and Kenenisa Bekele plus Briton Mo Fara

There is little else left for Joshua Cheptegei to prove to anyone, beyond himself. He has won everything there is to win for any elite runner.
Since becoming the 10,000 junior champion in Eugene, Oregon 2014, the 25-year old has gone to supersede heights many sportspersons dream of.
He is an Olympic, world, world cross country and double Commonwealth champion. These are marinated by four world records.

Like few would, Cheptegei buried that 2017 World Cross Country Championship failure at home in Kampala more than six feet under. It’s a moment that not many would rise beyond.  
The hunger for more is still there. Today, again in Oregon, there is a chance for him to touch a new milestone by becoming the first Ugandan to retain a World Athletics Championships title.
On this same track earlier this year, Cheptegei won a 5000m race at the Wanda Diamond League meeting on May 27 in a time of 12:57.99.

In winning, he beat Selemon Barega, the man who edged him to Olympic Gold on July 30, 2021 in Tokyo.  
A 53.9-second final circuit brought the 21-year-old Ethiopian home 0.21 clear of Cheptegei, with the world record-holder and Ugandan teammate Jacob Kiplimo in the bronze medal position.
He also has the motivation of potentially becoming the fourth back-to-back world 10,000m champion, after Ethiopians Haile Gebrselassie and Kenenisa Bekele plus Briton Mo Farah.
Shades of Qatar
If he achieves this in a manner similar to the events of his 2019 triumph in Doha, Qatar, hearts will not remain calm.
There, Kenyans Rhonex Kipruto and Rodgers Kwemoi took to the front to keep the pace fast and the then-returning Cheptegei, then a Silver medallist from London 2017.

By the 5,000 metre mark at 13:33.20 (27:07 pace), only 10 of the starters had fallen off the back. Nine laps later, Cheptegei took over the front and two more fell off the back.
Behind Cheptegei, the 19-year old Kipruto and the tall figure of the new indoor mile record holder Ethiopian Yomif Kejelcha looked like he was waiting to unleash that shorter distance speed.
After Canada’s Mohammed Ahmed fell off the back with 500 meters to go, the group was still five, single file, with Cheptegei still leading the race.
Running through traffic at the bell, Kwemoi and Ethiopia’s Andamlak Belihu couldn’t keep up and it looked like the medallists were decided.

Down the final backstretch, Kejelcha moved right onto Cheptegei’s shoulder then into a slight lead. The gap left Kipruto running for bronze.
As they entered the final turn Cheptegei kept Kejelcha on his outside, while he ran the shorter distance along the inside.
Coming off the turn, Cheptegei had the speed, separating slightly from Kejelcha, growing to a five-metre lead by the finish and claiming gold.

Compatriots
Fellow Ugandan Abdallah Mande Kibet was the compatriot in that race, finishing 17th. This time, the partners should be more able to stay closer to the front than Kibet did.
Kiplimo, often Cheptegei’s sidekick, has credentials to clinch any medal. He is the 2020 Half Marathon World Champion.
He is the 2017 IAAF World Cross Country Junior champion. In 2019, he became the World Cross Country Silver medallist at the age of 18.
On November 21, 2021, Kiplimo set the Half-Marathon World Record at 57:31 in Lisbon, Portugal. Stephen Kissa, the third Ugandan at the starting line, will be charged with running down the field.

Others
Of the finalists from Tokyo 2020, those who occupied the top seven positions are in Oregon22 for the 25-lap race. Barega will lead the field of itching opponents.
Barega’s teammate Berihu Aregawi, Grant Fisher of the USA, Ahmed and Kwemoi are all in. Besides the 10,000m final,  another Ugandan Ronald Musagala goes in the 1500m heats.
Also, the trio of Fred Musobo, Filex Chemonges and Jackson Kiprop will run in the men’s marathon final.

JOSHUA CHEPTEGEI MEDAL RECORD

OLYMPIC GAMES
Gold: 5,000 metres (Tokyo 2020)
Silver: 10,000 metres (Tokyo 
2020)
WORLD CHAMPIONSHIPS
Gold: 10,000 metres (Doha 2019)
Silver: 10,000 metres (London
 2017)
COMMONWEALTH GAMES
Gold: 5,000 metres (Gold Coast
 2018)
Gold: 10,000 metres (Gold Coast
 2018)


WORLD CROSS COUNTRY 
CHAMPIONSHIPS

Gold: Senior men’s race (Aarhus
 2019)
Team Gold: Senior men’s race 
(Aarhus 2019)
WORLD JUNIOR CHAMPIONSHIPS
Gold: 10,000 metres (Eugene
 2014)
UGANDA’S MEDALS AT THE
  WORLDS

Athens 1997: Davis Kamoga
 (Silver, 400m) 
Helsinki 2005: Dorcus Inzikuru
 (Gold, 3000m SC)
Osaka 2007: Moses Kipsiro
 (Bronze, 5000m)
Moscow 2013: Stephen Kiprotich
 (Gold, Marathon)
Beijing 2015: Solomon Mutai 
(Bronze, Marathon)
London 2017: Joshua Cheptegei (Silver, 

10000m)
Doha 2019: Halimah Nakaayi
(Gold, 800m)
Doha 2019: Joshua Cheptegei 
(Gold, 10000m)

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