Joshua Cheptegei looking to add more titles to his glittering collections in Eugene
Updated August 23, 2022
At age 25, very few distance runners could boast of the glittering collection of titles that Uganda’s Joshua Cheptegei has in his collections since he started competitive running when he was a teenager in 2013.
Since the trembling teenager of poise and grandeur came onto the limelight, he has been on an upward trajectory. There have been a few stumbling blocks along the way to what has been an incredible journey, like when he fumbled the final lap of the 2017 World country championships as he struggled through the last kilometer to past the finish line in 30th position.
Regardless, a majority of his story has been filled with so much dominance and success, it’s just a matter of time before he’s been spoken in the same breath as the great Haile Gebrselassie.
Cheptegei is an Olympic Gold and Silver medallist, World Championships Gold and Silver medallist, Double Commonwealth Games Gold medallist, and one-time world cross country Gold medallist, his collection of titles is beginning to accumulate, and he will be looking to add more when this year’s World Championships get underway.
Can he be stopped has always been the question on everyone’s lips. Well, technically, Selemon Barega’s decisive turn of speed in the final lap of the men’s 10000m final at the Tokyo Olympics and a 53.9-second final circuit brought Ethiopian home 0.21 clear of Cheptegei, who took Silver.
Despite his titles before 2020, Joshua Cheptegei’s greatest performance as an athlete came in 2020. At the Diamond League in Monaco, the Ugandan stunned a sparse crowd by breaking a 5,000m world record that had stood for 16 years, running the 12.5 laps of the Louis II stadium in a time of 12:35.36. By doing so, he beat the previous best – 12:37.35 set by Ethiopian great Kenenisa Bekele in 2004 – by almost two seconds.
“It took a lot of mind setting to keep being motivated this year because so many people are staying home, but you have to stay motivated,” Cheptegei explained said after the race.
54 days after he had broken Bekele’s 5000m World record, Cheptegei was on a mission as he broke the men’s 10,000m World record with an astonishing 26:11.02 in Valencia on October 7 at the NN Running Team Valencia World Record Day in Turia stadium.
Cheptegei smashed legendary Bekele’s record of 26:17.53, which has stood since 2005 by 6.53 seconds. By virtue of that, the Ugandan become the 10th man in history to hold the 5000m and 10,000m World records simultaneously.
Each year we have seen Cheptegei reach new levels of distance running supremacy, and just when you think he cannot reach another level of running speed, he comes back and break yet another world record or clinch another title.
In March this year, Cheptegei ran a world-Leading (WL) record of 26 minutes and 49 seconds over the 10km road race in Cannes, France. It was a perfect race to build him up for the season.
Behind the scenes, Cheptegei puts in a lot of miles and hard work in training. But in Eugene, he will face stiff competition from a couple of athletes who will be on a mission to dethrone him.
One interesting phenomenon that emerged this year is the resurgence of Kenyan 5000m runners. Kenya, long considered a distance powerhouse, has not medaled in the 5000m at a world championship since 2015, and they will be in to spoil the party for Cheptegei.
Leading that charge will be the duo of Nicholas Kipkorir and Jacob Krop, who notched a pair of 12:46s this season.
Ethiopia’s Barega has not been at his sharpest at 5000m on the Wanda Diamond League circuit in 2022, finishing third in Eugene and fourth in Rome but winning in Paris.
He did, though, add another global gold medal to his collection at the World Indoor Championships in Belgrade, holding off fellow Ethiopian and the world and Olympic steeplechase silver medallist Lamecha Girma in the 3000m. So he could yet prove a major stumbling block for Cheptegei on his way to winning his first 5000m world title.
Norwegian sensation Jakob Ingebrigtsen who has a 12:48 PB and plenty of closing speed, will be doing the 1500m-5000m double and could yet pose a serious threat to Cheptegei.
In the men’s 10000m, he will be hoping to exact revenge on Barega, who beat him to Gold at the Olympics. Barega seems to be in the form of his life, and not many distance runners can stop him. Then again, not many people are Cheptegei.
Update: The star of Ugandan distance running, Joshua Cheptegai, took gold in the 10,000m in Eugene in a close race, running 27:27.43. In the 5,000m, Joshua took fifth in 13:13.12. Joshua did not compete in the Commonwealth Games as he sustained an injury in Eugene. We hope to see him in the fall of 2022, racing once again!
Joshua Cheptegei, a member of the NN Racing Team, is sponsored by COROS.
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