From death to grace: Chebet’s return gives Uganda belief

Racheal Zena Chebet in action enroute to her silver medal in the women's 10000m final in Saint Pierre on Saturday. PHOTO/AYODEJI OYEGINGBO

What you need to know:

Death To Grace. Racheal Zena Chebet nearly quit athletics because of pain in the waist after surviving an accident in 2022. Yet, she is the best non-Kenyan or Ethiopian performer over the senior women’s race at the World Athletics Cross-country Championships over the past decade, after fourth place in Aarhus, Denmark in 2019. By bouncing back with the national title, Chebet now eyes the podium in the Serbian capital Belgrade tomorrow.

Two years ago, Racheal Zena Chebet escaped death. On her way back home to Kapchorwa after competing at the National Track & Field Athletics Championships in Namboole, Chebet in company of her husband Ben Siwa survived a nasty accident.

She however soaked in pain in the back and around her waist. Chebet earlier that month had won a 10000m silver medal at the Africa Senior Athletics Championships and then the 25-lap national title.

The impact of the accident affected her onwards. She labored to compete and ended up 10th at the Birmingham Commonwealth Games in England.

“By the time I finished the Commonwealth Games, the pain was too much,” she recalls. Chebet eventually sat out and did less, only running to second place at the Rabat Half-Marathon in Morocco on April 30, 2023.

The 27-year-old did not compete until she won the senior women’s 10km title during the National Cross-country Championships in Tororo on February 10.

Whereas Joshua Cheptegei and Jacob Kiplimo are surely Uganda’s biggest medal prospects at the World Athletics Cross-Country Championships in Serbian capital Belgrade tomorrow, Chebet is one who will push the quest in the senior women’s 10km race most.

Kenya and Ethiopia have been so dominant in this event. Both countries have occasionally filled up the podium with Chebet emerging as the best non-Kenyan or Ethiopian performer in the last decade.

Chebet missed the 2023 edition in Bathurst, Australia but she now wants to take it a notch higher. “I am praying to God to give me strength to enter the top three,” she said before the team’s departure to Belgrade.

“I thank God, I am now okay. I suffered a waist problem. I am also strong, they (competition) are like me,” she noted. She will have the company of Annet Chemengich, Sarah Chelangat, Joy Cheptoyek, Belinda Chemutai and Loice Chekwemoi for the pursuit of a team medal. 

Uganda has won a senior women's bronze medal at each of the last two editions in Bathurst and Aarhus.

Chebet will be in a field which comprises a strong Kenyan field led by reigning Beatrice Chebet who also won the 5km race during the World Athletics Road Running Championships in Riga, Latvia last October.

Beatrice is accompanied by Agnes Ngetich, who won bronze in Bathurst, as well as Lilian Kasait Rengeruk and Margaret Chelimo Kipkemboi, silver medallists over 5km and 21km in turn from Riga.

Ethiopian national champion Girmawit Gebrzihair is another to watch. Both Kenya and Ethiopia have reportedly suffered visa hitches to Serbia.

Uganda has sent a team of 27 athletes following a one-month camp in Kapchorwa. “The camp has been the best, it was facilitated 100 percent,” said coach Benjamin Njia. “We promise the best results ever. The team is well prepared, psychologically, physically and emotionally.”

Youngsters Dolphine Chelimo, Charity Cherop and Keziah Chebet have been tipped to perform.


Senior Men (10KM): Joshua Cheptegei, Jacob Kiplimo, Martin Kiprotich, Dan Kibet, Leonard Chemutai, Hosea Kiplangat

Senior Women (10KM): Racheal Zena Chebet, Joy Cheptoyek, Sarah Chelangat, Annet Chemengich, Belinda Chemutai, Loice Chekwemoi

Junior Men (8KM): Dolphine Chelimo, Simba Cherop, Hosea Chemutai, Harbert Kibet, Titus Musau, Silas Rotich

Junior Women (6KM): Isella Chebet, Keziah Chebet, Nowel Cheruto, Charity Cherop, Vicky Chekwemboi

Mixed Relay (4 X 2km): Knight Aciru, Linda Chebet, Sam Kiprotich, Hosea Kiprop



2023 Bathurst: Jacob Kiplimo (Gold), Joshua Cheptegei (Silver)

2019 Aarhus: Joshua Cheptegei (Gold), Jacob Kiplimo (Silver)

2010 Bydgoszcz: Moses Kipsiro (Bronze)

2009 Amman: Moses Kipsiro (Silver)


2019 Aarhus: Oscar Chelimo (Bronze)

2017 Kololo: Jacob Kiplimo (Gold)

2009 Amman: Moses Kibet (Bronze)

2004 Brussels: Boniface Kiprop (Silver)

2003 Lausanne: Boniface Kiprop (Silver)

2002 Dublin: Boniface Kiprop (Bronze)


2023 Bathurst: Senior Men’s Bronze, Senior Women’s Bronze

2019 Aarhus: Senior Men’s Gold, Senior Women’s Bronze, Junior Men’s Silver

2017 Kampala: Senior Men’s Bronze, Junior Women’s Bronze

2015 Guiyang: Senior Women’s Bronze

2011 Punta Umbria: Senior Men’s Bronze

2010 Bydgoszcz: Junior Men’s Bronze, Junior Women’s Bronze

2008 Edinburgh: Junior Men’s Bronze

2007 Mombasa: Senior Men’s Bronze

2004 Brussels: Junior Men’s Bronze

2003 Lausanne: Junior Men’s Bronze

2002 Dublin: Junior Men’s Bronze

2001 Ostend: Junior Men’s Bronze

2000 Vilamoura: Junior Men’s Bronze