From Uganda with love

Wednesday, March 22nd, 2023 01:13 | By

Joshua Cheptegei has been the face of Ugandan athletics since winning a silver medal in the 10,000m at the 2017 World Championships in London.

Having upgraded to gold at the 2019 and 2021 World Championships, he’s also become a double Commonwealth champion, world record holder and Olympic 5,000m gold medallist - making him the most successful Ugandan athlete of all time.

But having enjoyed unrivalled admiration at home for several years, the 26-year-old is happier now a young compatriot, Jacob Kiplimo, 22, is pushing to steal the limelight.

“I was always travelling for competitions alone, fighting alone to represent and win for the country,” Cheptegei told BBC Sport Africa.

“But when Jacob came in, I think the pressure on my shoulders was reduced because it’s not good for a country to only look up to one person.”

Cheptegei has admitted to living in fear of Uganda missing out on a major competition podium should he get injured - something that came to pass when he was forced to withdraw from last year’s Commonwealth Games in Birmingham.

To his delight, Kiplimo rose to the occasion, claiming an historic double in the 5,000m and 10,000m.

“It was very beautiful to see what he achieved for Uganda. I was so proud of him.”

Birmingham not only presented Kiplimo with an opportunity to win his first senior track titles but also to defend on behalf of Uganda the accolades won four years before by Cheptegei, who Kiplimo describes as “my mentor of many years”.

“Joshua has been giving me a lot of advice the last four years, a lot of encouragement,” he explained.

“He cares about me very much and tells me what to do to be successful. He has been a good friend to me, we really complement each other.”

The pair’s friendship has been clear for all to see when celebrating each other’s successes at major events, often sharing podiums.

And recently, it seems the student might be getting the upper hand on the master, with Kiplimo crowned champion at February’s World Cross Country Championships, where Cheptegei finished third, while the junior partner also defeated his mentor in Sunday’s New York City Half Marathon.

“At the end of the day, we have to accept that one of us will emerge better than the other,” Cheptegei told the BBC ahead of that race.   

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