Cheptegei can step into the shoes of Farah

By James Bakama

Added 14th August 2017 03:20 PM

Cheptegei gave Farah a torrid time in what the British legend later described as the toughest final of his career.

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Cheptegei gave Farah a torrid time in what the British legend later described as the toughest final of his career.

Athletics has a big hole to fill after Mo Farah and Usain Bolt’s departure.

As the curtains went down on the London World Championships many were left wondering who will step forward to fill Farah and Bolt’s shoes.

While the question as to who will fill Bolt’s shoes lingers on, Uganda could have an answer for the Farah question.

Joshua Cheptegei, who won silver on the opening day of the championship, is believed to have what it takes to start off where Farah stopped.

Cheptegei gave Farah a torrid time in what the British legend later described as the toughest final of his career.

“Cheptegei is not only young, but also very gifted,” notes Uganda Athletics Federation president Domenic Otucet.

But probably even more important is the fact that Cheptegei has the mindset of a winner. This was evident as he produced a strong finish in the home stretch of the 10,000m final.

Cheptegei became the second Ugandan to win world medals at both junior and senior level. Dorcus inzikuru was the first.

She won gold at the 1999 World Youth Championship before again scaling similar heights with gold in the steeplechase at the 2005 World Championships in Finland.

But UAF also has a lot to do if its top athlete is to take the mantle from Farah.

If the preparations for London are anything to go by, then Cheptegei could easily be just another of those stars who shoot into the limelight only to fizzle out shortly after.

Uganda’s preparations could have been much better. As someone put it, the country’s preparations seemed focused more on quantity than quality.

As other countries fi ne tuned for months, Uganda seemed to be more interested in having a big contingent in London.

Quality was in the process compromised. Save for Cheptegei, the rest of Uganda’s team of 20 runners seemed not adequately prepared.

Uganda’s poor preparation was highlighted by not only a late national championship but also late visa processing.

The late national championship in effect meant that there were barely three weeks of final preparation.

The late visa process not only had one of the runners Alex Chesakit missing the global event but also had other team members’ travel disrupted.

Dorcus Ajok and Winnie Nanyondo in the process had barely only a day to acclimatise after their late arrival.

But amidst all this, the uncertainty whether one would make the trip was no good state of mind to an athlete preparing for athletics’ biggest competition.

Is it therefore surprising that Ajok, a World University champion, and Nanyondo, a Commonwealth Games bronze medalist, could not even make the final?

It is also time UAF sorted out its coaching department.

Days before departure for London athletes were already complaining about coaching.

Selection of coaches

Uganda would have made the best on this front if coaches from clubs like Prisons, Police and Uganda Wildlife Authority that contributed the bulk of the athletes had also travelled.

Facilities were no better.  As the long distance team trained on an uneven ground in Kapchorwa, the middle distance athletes were training on the ageing Namboole turf.

The sooner the Teryet high altitude centre is completed, the better.

It is 10 years since President Yoweri Museveni directed that the centre be set up. But actual construction in the Elgon Mountains has just begun. Ugandan athletes as a result have to cross to Kenya to access proper training facilities.

Embrace sprints

It is also time Uganda diversified to the sprints and field events. Earlier medals on the big stage from Patrick Etolu (high jump), Justin Arop (javelin), John Akii-Bua (400m hurdles) and Davis Kamoga (400m) are all proof that Uganda’s talent is not restricted to the middle and long distances.

Every year talent is churned out from national schools championships. The sooner UAF started following up this talent the broader the national side will get.

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