Kiplimo, Cheptegei chase unprecedented World x-Country hat-trick

Kiplimo (C) won gold in Bathurst with Cheptegei (R) taking bronze. PHOTO/COURTSEY 

What you need to know:

Historic Hat-trick Chase. Uganda has not dominated many sports events globally. As defending champion Jacob Kiplimo and 2019 winner Joshua Cheptegei layout tools at the World Cross-country Championships in Serbian capital Belgrade today, they will be hunting for a hat-trick of senior men’s 10km individual titles for Uganda. Uganda has only won five in a row at the men’s 10000m at the Commonwealth Games and the three straight men’s 10000m golds by Cheptegei at the World Athletics Championships.

Unlike powerhouses Kenya and Ethiopia, Uganda has not bossed the grand stage of global athletics for long. The East African nation’s head rose first high at the 2017 World Cross-country Championships in front of President Museveni in Kololo.

Joshua Cheptegei was on his way to a senior men’s 12km gold medal and then, he stumbled. But, Jacob Kiplimo powered to junior men’s 8km gold, fully announcing himself to the world on March 26, 2017.

Uganda has claimed the top men’s titles at the ensuing World Cross-country editions: Cheptegei taking gold and bronze while Kiplimo got silver and gold, all respectively at the Aarhus 2019 and Bathurst 2023 editions in Denmark and Australia.

A year after Bathurst, Cheptegei and Kiplimo are pursuing a historic feat for Uganda when they compete at the World Cross-country Championships in Serbian capital Belgrade on Saturday.

The duo will be the centre of attraction in the senior men’s 10km event on a pretty challenging looped course at Friendship Park. “See you on Saturday (today),” said Cheptegei.

“Time to defend the Ugandan flag one more time,” noted Kiplimo, 23, who has won a major championship medal for Uganda each of the last five years.

Commonwealth dominance 

In history, Uganda has only won two global championship honours thrice or more in a row: the men’s 10000m Commonwealth title from Boniface Kiprop in Melbourne 2006, Moses Kipsiro at New Delhi 2010 and Glasgow 2014 editions and then Cheptegei and Kiplimo at Gold Coast 2018 and Birmingham 2022 shows respectively.

The country has also retained the men’s 10000m world title thrice; Cheptegei doing it at Doha 2019, Oregon 2022 and Budapest 2023 episodes.

In Belgrade today, Cheptegei and Kiplimo will look to complete another momentous hat-trick for Uganda.

Cheptegei, according to his coach Addy Ruiter, only changed his mind recently to compete in Belgrade. After Budapest, Cheptegei’s priority was on a 42km debut at the Valencia Marathon last December in Spain.

The 27-year-old bounced back to qualify for the Paris Olympics by finishing second at the Laredo 10K in Spain a fortnight ago. “In two weeks you cannot do a lot, so his level will be the same as in Spain,” said Ruiter.

“He is ready and in better shape than in Bathurst, but on Saturday, we will see if it is good enough.”

Hamstring problem 

Cheptegei’s younger compatriot Kiplimo had intent on retaining his title upon return from a hamstring problem which saw him miss the Budapest Worlds last August.

Kiplimo set pace for Kenyan Eliud Kipchoge at the Berlin Marathon in Germany in September, won Cross Internacional de Atapuerca in Spain in October before closing the year with a joint-world best 15km time upon winning the Seven Hills Run in Nijmegen, Netherlands in late November.

He then won Valencia 10K on January 29 and the National Cross-country title in Tororo on February 10 but he knows where his biggest threat is.

“My biggest sporting rival is my compatriot and national team member Cheptegei,” Kiplimo admitted in a recent interview.

The Ugandan duo has run together in nine track and road races together at major championships in the last eight years, yielding 11 medals between them.

And they mean business this time. Kiplimo and Cheptegei travelled on the same plane to Belgrade via Doha. “I expect a good race and it’s helpful for Joshua that it’s a flat course with only a few man made obstacles,” added Ruiter.

Former world cross country champion Cheptegei will wants his title back. PHOTO/COURTSEY 

And they face a mountainous task though. The course overlooking the Sava and Danube rivers is largely made of grass with dirt, sand and a cross-country hurdle. It is about 1.887km long with straights of 270m and 320m at the start and finish in turn.

Biggest rival 

Their biggest rival will be Ethiopian Berihu Aregawi who claimed the silver medal in Bathurst. Then, enter Sabastian Sawe who recently won the Kenya Cross-country Championships to add to his world half-marathon title. Sawe, 29, finished seventh in Bathurst.

Cheptegei and Kiplimo are however, also eyeing a team gold medal and the company of Dan Kibet, fourth in junior men’s 8km race in Bathurst, will come in handy.

Kibet was also second behind Kiplimo in Tororo and the cast also has Martin Kiprotich, Leonard Chemutai and former national champion Hosea Kiplangat.

Racheal Zena Chebet leads the senior women’s cast for the team medal over the 10km event while Dolphine Chelimo and Charity Cherop are tipped in the junior races, a stage Uganda hasn’t achieved an individual medal since Oscar Chelimo’s bronze in Aarhus.

Uganda medals at the World X-Country 

Senior men's race 

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)

Junior men's race 

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)

Team Medals 

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



Senior Men’s 10km

Jacob Kiplimo (1st, 29:17)

Joshua Cheptegei (3rd, 29:37)


Men’s 10000m Final 

Joshua Cheptegei (1st, 27:27.43) 

Jacob Kiplimo (3rd, 27:27.97) 


Men’s 5000m Final

Joshua Cheptegei (1st, 12:58.15)

Jacob Kiplimo (5th, 13:02.40) 

Men’s 5000m Heat 2

Jacob Kiplimo (4th, 13:30.40)

Joshua Cheptegei (5th, 13:30.61)

Men’s 10000m Final

Joshua Cheptegei (2nd, 27:43.63)

Jacob Kiplimo (3rd, 27:43.88) 


Men’s 21km

Jacob Kiplimo (1st, 58:49)

Joshua Cheptegei (4th, 59:21)


Senior Men’s 10km

Joshua Cheptegei (1st, 31:40)

Jacob Kiplimo (2nd, 31:44)  


Men’s 10000m Final

Joshua Cheptegei (1st, 27:19.62)

Jacob Kiplimo (4th, 27:30.25)


Men’s 5000m Heat 1

Joshua Cheptegei (4th, 13:25.70) 

Jacob Kiplimo (11th, 13:30.40)