Don’t be surprised if he makes even more history next month
Jacob Kiplimo is a classic example of talent development that every Ugandan should seriously study.
From an unknown barefooted runner from Kween district four years ago, Kiplimo, who made 18 in November, is today one of the world’s best long distance runners.
The Arua Athletics Club runner underlined just that by defeating favourite Joshua Cheptegei in the National Cross Country in Tororo at the weekend.
With the world cross country due next month don’t be surprised if he shines again. What makes Kiplimo stand out is the fact that he is on a steady trajectory to greatness.
Two years after being spotted in 2014 he won a world junior bronze in Poland. Later in 2016, he was one of the youngest runners at the Rio Olympics.
Then the following year he made history by becoming the first Ugandan to win a world cross country gold medal.
He followed this up with a world junior 10,000-metre silver last year in Tampere, Finland.
Shortly afterwards he made up his mind to upgrade to senior level.
Most sportsmen take long to adjust to such changes but that was not the case with Kiplimo. As they say, Kiplimo hit the ground running.
He has dominated the International Association of Athletics Federation cross country circuit with a five-race winning streak stretching back to December.
Cheptegei, a world junior champion, 15-kilometre world record holder and double Commonwealth Games gold medallist, was seen by many, as the man who would check Kilplimo’s rise.
But that hasn’t happened. Kiplimo first beat Chepetegi on the IAAF circuit in January then again in Tororo.
So what is it that makes Kiplimo stand out? “He is disciplined and very willing to learn. But even most important, he is very competitive,” noted Arua AC’s Beatrice Ayikoru.
Equally important, Kiplimo has good handlers, who have also linked him to a club in Italy.
This has greatly exposed the teenager who is regularly competing on the European circuit.
That has not only come with steady income, but also other benefits like proper medical insurance and counselling.
Many sportsmen burn out prematurely because of lack of proper guidance and coaching.
For instance, Ugandan footballers have beaten the world’s best in competitions like the U-11 and U-13 only to fizzle out thereafter.
Footballers like Stephen Bengo were indeed at that tender age the envy of players like Wayne Rooney and Theo Walcott in some of these competitions.
They, however, couldn’t scale the heights reached by the Britons.
Athletics might be way different from football but there are still some things that those who run the beautiful game can learn from Uganda’s most successful sport.
Back to Kiplimo, don’t be surprised if he makes even more history next month.
He is on course of joining that rare club of runners who have won world titles both as a junior and senior.