For many athletics fans, and those interested in the Olympics, Jacob Kiplimo, 20, is the man to watch as the world turns its eyes to the long-distance track double beginning tomorrow.
The youngster is one who can’t be overlooked when the men’s 10,000m final notebook is opened.
In a conversation with this newspaper before heading out to Japan, Kiplimo sounded optimistic, saying he was eying nothing less than a podium finish.
“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 10,000m race is run below 26:40 minutes 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,” he confidently 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 10,000m race having posted the seventh fastest time ever while winning the 25-lap race in Ostrava, Czech Republic on May 19.
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 by many Ugandans during the bitter-sweet World Cross-country Championships in Kololo, Kampala on March 26, 2017. Then, just at 17, Kiplimo stunned the junior field to win the gold, to ink his name in history.
That day, Joshua 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 saw him give away an 11-second lead and finish 30th.
That was Kiplimo’s launch-pad. By the next edition of the World Cross-country Championships in Arhus, Denmark two years later, he had now crossed to the seniors, aged 19.
This time he took the silver behind Cheptegei.
Before those exploits, Kiplimo had been a nobody in the remote village in Chemwoneibei, Tragon Parish, Benet Sub-county in Kween District.
He had never dreamt of a big stage or even going into the Olympics. His local coach, Peter Chelangat, says he identified the young 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 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 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 is that even with the exploits, Kiplimo is yet to get ‘anything’ from government.
When the Italians took over under the tutelage of Italian manager Iacopo Brasi, Kiplimo got a new home at Atletica Casone Noceto Club. He has now become an established elite athlete with professional management.
To leverage on training, Kiplimo says he shifted his training base from Kween to Kapchorwa District.
After marrying Monesta Kiplimo and siring one baby, he rented for them a house in Kapchorwa Municipality from where he would be able to 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. But, earlier on October 17, he managed the championship record at 57:37 as he won the World Half-Marathon Championships in Poland.
For all his efforts, his siblings have picked a leaf and nearly all his brothers are aiming to make it in the athletics stage.
2020 World Half-Marathon Champs: 1st (Men’s 21km)
2019 World Cross-country: 2nd (Senior Men’s 10km)
2018 World Jnr Champs: 2nd (10,000m), 6th (5,000m)
2018 Commonwealth Games: 4th (10,000m)
2017 London World Champs: 22nd (10000m Heats)
2016 Rio Olympics: 26th (5,000m Heats)
2016 World Jnr Champs: 3rd (1,0000m)