Mutai, Cheptegei carrying Uganda's medal hopes at World Championships

By James Bakama

Uganda will be fielding its biggest ever team at the biennial event

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As the curtain rises on the World Championships Ugandans will have the chance to follow their stars in the comfort of their televisions.

Subscribers of one of Africa’s leading pay television DStv will follow the action on a number of sports channels.

DStv customers will enjoy a slice of the action on SS8 HD, Maximo and Maximo 3 while GOtv customers will enjoy the athletics events on Select 3.

Uganda, represented by 20 runners in the action starting today in London, will be fielding its biggest ever team at the biennial event.

Team Uganda comprises of eight women and 12 men.

Joshua Cheptegei, Moses Kurong and Timothy Toroitich will be the first Ugandans in action tomorrow.

The trio will be battling for medals in the men’s 10000 meter final in London’s Olympic stadium.

Banking on Mutai

With 2012 London Olympics and 2013 World Champion Stephen Kiprotich off the team, Uganda will be banking on Solomon Mutai and Cheptegei as its biggest medal hope.

Mutai won bronze at the last world meet in Beijing while Cheptegei is determined to prove a point after missing out on a World Cross Country medal.

Meanwhile Africa, a powerhouse in the middle and long distance events, will be out to also stamp its authority in the sprints.

In the last five years, African sprinting has gradually emerged from the vast shadows of middle-and-long distance dominance the continent is famed for.

In the 15 editions of the world championships to date, Africa boasts just eight sprint gold medals, a far cry from the plus-80 amassed in middle and long distance races.

At the centre of the sprint boom has been the likes of Nigeria’s Blessing Okagbare, Muriel Ahoure from Ivory Coast, Kenya’s Nicholas Bett and Boniface Mucheru; Wayde van Niekerk and Akani Simbine from South Africa and Botswana’s Isaac Makwala, among others.

As the number one and number two ranked athletes in the world in the 200m, Makwala and Van Niekerk lead the charge in the quest to dethrone Usain Bolt in this event which the world’s fastest man won’t be part of.

Bolt has confirmed that he’ll only compete in the 100m and the 4x100m relay in what is his athletics swansong.

The two could also be part of an African podium sweep in the 400m with Makwala’s compatriots, Baboloki Thebe and Karabo Sibanda, set to be serious medal contenders in the one-lap race.

With Bett unable to defend his 400m hurdles title, Kenya’s first-ever sprint gold in the championships, compatriot and Olympic silver medallist Mucheru will be favourite to bag the gold.

The supreme form displayed by the likes of Kenya’s Faith Kipyegon, Helen Obiri, Nijel Amos (Botswana), Caster Semenya (South Africa) and Almaz Ayana (Ethiopia) in the past few weeks should see Africa continue its dominance in the endurance races.