No flowers in Florence for Cheptegei

Cheptegei could only finish fourth in Italy. PHOTO/COURTSEY 

What you need to know:

Cheptegei moved to third at the start of the final stretch but Grijalva hung on to take third with a national record of 12:52.97.

Since 2017, Joshua Cheptegei is accustomed to podium finishes. So a part of him will feel disappointed on his way back home that he did not make the top three places in the men’s 5000m race during Friday night’s Golden Gala event in Florence, Italy.

Yes, there were no flowers for him on a cold evening at the Stadio Luigi Ridolfi but a respectable fourth place finish on his return to track in nearly 10 months, was welcome.

Solid track start

Cheptegei engaged gears in the final 800m to surge from the back and post a commendable time of 12 minutes and 53.81 seconds.

“Solid start of the track season,” his manager Jurrie van der Velden said moments after the race. 

Cheptegei had not competed on track since last July when he struggled with a hamstring at the Oregon World Championships in Eugene, USA.

In Tuscany, Cheptegei could have offered the world reminders of his prowess, even outside the podium places. He had kept low key at the back for the long spells of a rather slow race.

Slow race

The lead changed many times from pace makers Irishman Paul Robinson and Australian Jack Rayner to Guatemalan Luis Grijalva, Kenyan Jacob Krop and Ethiopian Telahun Bekele.

There was a 15-man pack intact into the closing stages and it began to disintegrate when Olympic 10000m champion Ethiopian Selemon Barega upped the ante with two laps to go.

The field ran that penultimate lap in 59.05 seconds and then Cheptegei moved out in lane three to rise from eighth. At the time, eventual race winner Spaniard Mohamed Katir was fighting to hold off another Ethiopian Yomif Kejelcha.

Cheptegei moved to third at the start of the final stretch but Grijalva hung on to take third with a national record of 12:52.97.

Ugandans in Hassan’s way

Katir won in a world lead time of 12:52.09, ahead of Kejelcha who posted 12:52.12. The final lap yielded 54.65 seconds.

Meanwhile, the middle-distance pair of Winnie Nanyondo and Janat Chemusto will face a sterner test from Dutch girl Sifan Hassan over the 1500m at the FBK Hengelo Games in the Netherlands on Sunday.

“Podium will be great. We don’t know yet if Hassan goes for a fast time or only the win,” coach Addy Ruiter said of Chemusto. Hassan could be motivated by Kenyan Faith Kipyegon who broke the 1500m world record to 3:49.11 in Florence.

And at the Stadion Śląski in Chorzów, Poland, Hassan’s training partner Halimah Nakaayi is entered for the 800m at the Janusz Kusociński Memorial. 


Janusz Kusociński Memorial: Halimah Nakaayi (800m)

FBK Games Hengelo: Winnie Nanyondo, Janat Chemusto (1500m)



1 Mohamed Katir (ESP)         12:52.09

2 Yomif Kejelcha (ETH)        12:52.12

3 Luis Grijalva (GUA)            12:52.97

4 Joshua Cheptegei (UGA)     12:53.81


Date of birth: September 12, 1996

Major Races: 5000m, 10000m

Personal Bests: 5000m (12:35.36), 10000m (26:11.00)

Coach: Addy Ruiter

Manager: Jurrie van der Velden

Kit Sponsor: Nike


Mar 6: Cannes 10K (1st, 26:49)

May 27: Prefontaine Classic 5000m (1st, 12:57.99)

Jul 17: Oregon Worlds 10000m Final (1st, 27:27.43)

Jul 21: Oregon Worlds 5000m Heat 1 (4th, 13:24.47)

Jul 24: Oregon Worlds 5000m Final (9th, 13:13.12)

Dec 31: NN San Silvestre 10K (1st, 27:09)


Feb 18: World X-Country (3rd, 29:37)

Mar 19: New York Half-Marathon (2nd, 1:02:09)

Jun 2: Florence DL (4th, 12:53.81)