SPORTS | CHEPTEGEI | ATHLETICS
VALENCIA - Within the space of two months, Uganda's Joshua Cheptegei has broken two long-standing world records - the 5,000m one on August 14 in Monaco and now the 10,000m one on Wednesday night in Valencia.
It means he has erased both races' records previously set by Ethiopian legend Kenenisa Bekele after each remaining intact for more than a decade.
Yet, Cheptegei's records story does not stop at these two.
Back in February, the 24-year-old Ugandan athletics star also broke the world 5km road record in Monaco.
So his latest feat, produced on a humid late night in the Spanish city of Valencia at a specially-organised NN Valencia World Record Day event, means Cheptegei has broken three world records this year.
And to him, his latest metronomical achievement, which places him firmly in the history space of the sport's greats before him, is just the foundation of what is to come.
"I think this [latest feat] lays a foundation of what can still happen and what I want to achieve in the years to come," he told an interview just after the race.
Back in 2005 (August 26), Ethiopian Bekele broke his own 10,000m record to establish a new one of 26:17.53 minutes in the Belgian capital Brussels.
Fast-forward to present day, 15 years later, and Cheptegei has once again entered his name in the athletics history books by establishing a new 10,000m world record of 26:11.00 minutes, and smashing his personal best in the process inside the Turia Stadium.
Coming into Wednesday's race, the world champion's best time was 26:48.36 - and willed on by pace setters, including Uganda's Stephen Kissa, Cheptegei had to push himself more than ever to beat Bekele's time, which was the longest standing men's 10,000m world record in history before it came under assault.
Track 'still exciting'
In the buildup to the race, Cheptegei had said he was delighted to be offered the opportunity to go after the 10,000m record.
And after his blistering triumphant run, the Ugandan runner spoke of what it meant to him.
"It means something great to me. You know you are trying to write history (...) We want to make people know that the track is still exciting. We want to give it our all so that the sports lovers in the world can have the benefit of their time by seeing us now," he said.
And after racing in a nearly empty stadium due to the COVID-19 restrictions, Cheptegei urged people to follow the guidelines put in place to prevent the spread of the virus.
"We live in a difficult situation now with COVID, but this event can still give us joy, it can still give us hope for tomorrow. Knowing that we need to take precautions to defeat the virus, we need to be careful, we don't need to be reckless and for sure the world will return back to normal.
"It will not be any soon because most of the people are not following the precautions and SOPs [standard operating procedures]. We need to tell them again that the world will get back to normal, and the best way we can do that is when all of us get concerned about coming back to normal," he said.
President Yoweri Museveni congratulated Cheptegei on his achievement, tweeting that "Uganda is proud of you as you continue to hoist our flag high!"
Meanwhile, also on the night in Valencia, Ethiopian Letesenbet Gidey was targetting compatriot Tirunesh Dibaba's women's 5,000m world record of 14:11.15 minutes set in Oslo, Norway in 2008. And she did it - with a new world record time of 14:06.65 minutes.
Ugandan Winnie Nanyondo, better known for the 800m event, took part in this women's race.