When Joshua Cheptegei won the 2017 National Cross Country Championships, he summed up his performance with an interesting observation.
“I can do it,” he stated after completing the 10km senior men’s race at Kololo.
When asked moments later what exactly he meant, the Police Athletics runner explained “the world cross country gold medal is within reach.”
You easily dismiss his confidence as a joke until you see the ease with which he won on the same course where he will go for the world title on March 26.
“Considering the home support and my knowledge of the course, there can’t a better moment for me to go for gold,” he stated.
There also can’t be a better moment to stop Ethiopia and Kenya’s dominance of the competition. Cheptegei first got a feel of the world meet in 2015.
He finished eleventh, a place behind team-mate Fred Musobo, helping Uganda to a junior men’s bronze. He has since graduated to the senior men’s race in fast improving form.
His confidence of making it to the medal podium partly stems from his exploits as a junior.
The spotlight was on Ethiopia and Kenya when he won gold at the World Junior Championships in Eugene, USA in 2014. Cheptegei’s good cross country running was first evident in 2014 when he won the World University Championships at the Entebbe Golf course.
He followed this up with more gold in the Africa Junior Championships in Addis Ababa the following year.
But at national team level he was still a junior. It was like being thrust into the deep end when he qualified for the Rio Olympics.
But he still put up a gallant fight against big names like Mo Farah finishing eighth and sixth in the 5000 and 10000 meters respectively.
“He has since improved tremendously,” says coach Benjamin Longiros, who also believes that a podium finish for Cheptegei is a serious possibility.
- Born: 12 September 1996
- Managed by Global Sports Communication
- 2014 World 10000m junior Champion
- 2014 World University Cross Country champion
- 2015 Africa Junior champion
- 1500m 3:37.83 (Nijmegen), 5000m 13:00.60 (Shanghai)
- 10000m 27:10.06 (Rio de Janeiro)
- 10km 27:46 (Laredo)
- 15km 42:08 (Nijmejen)