Florence field has no flowers for Cheptegei

Cheptegei will open his season in Florence, Italy. PHOTO/COURTSEY 

What you need to know:

At the Stadio Luigi Ridolfi on Friday, Cheptegei will face nearly the same field he will encounter in that 25-lap final in Budapest.

For Joshua Cheptegei, every race counts and the results are measured to the dot.

His profile is too big to veer away from any pinch of attention. Tonight, the two-time world 10000m champion will launch his outdoor season business on track in Italy.

Cheptegei is inevitably the lead face in a field of 18 men set for the 5000m for Golden Gala in Florence, a leg of the Wanda Diamond League (DL).

The race is a build-up for Cheptegei as he bids to complete an iconic hat-trick of 10000m titles come the Budapest World Athletics Championships in the Hungarian capital in August.

“It’s a good test to see how the level is at the moment in a strong field,” said Cheptegei’s coach Addy Ruiter.

The 26-year-old runner has not competed on track in almost a year, from actually 10 months ago when he came ninth in the 5000m final at the Oregon Worlds in Eugene, USA.

He struggled with a hamstring problem in that race, consequently missing the next Birmingham Commonwealth Games and later pulling out of the Great North Run, both in England.

Cheptegei wrapped up the year in strong fashion with victory at the NN San Silvestre Vallecana 10K in Spanish capital Madrid with a time of 27 minutes and nine seconds.

In 2023 already, Cheptegei got bronze but lost his World Cross-country title to his compatriot Jacob Kiplimo in Bathurst, Australia and then came second to Kiplimo at the New York Half-Marathon in the USA a month later.

Now, Cheptegei arrives in Florence with nine wins out of his 22 past competitive 5000m races including the 2018 Gold Coast Commonwealth and Tokyo 2020 Olympic titles.

In truth, the 12-and-a-half-lap race offers a real test to his speed codes but Ruiter is confident. “His shape is good. In such a strong field, time is not important. It’s all about finishing, at least in the top three,” the Dutchman said.

At the Stadio Luigi Ridolfi on Friday, Cheptegei will face nearly the same field he will encounter in that 25-lap final in Budapest.

Of those, 12 men have all posted sub-13:00 minute personal bests including Cheptegei who has the world record at 12:35.36. Olympic 10000m champion Ethiopian Selemon Barega is next fastest, followed by world 5000m silver medallist Kenyan Jacob Krop.

The field also has tricky competitors like Ethiopians Yomif Kejelcha and Berihu Aregawi, American Grant Fisher, Kenyan Nicholas Kipkorir, Canadian Mohammed Ahmed and Luis Grijalva from Guatemala, who surprised with fourth place in Eugene.


Florence Diamond League: Joshua Cheptegei (5000m)


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