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07 October 2020 | in FISU World University Championships

Another record-setting run for WUC Cross Country champ Cheptegei

 

On an evening billed as a world record day, former FISU World University Cross Country Championship titleist Joshua Cheptegei smashed the men’s 10,000 metres mark at the Valencia World Record Day event.

 

cheptegei 10km worldrecordCrossing the line in a stunning 26 minutes 11.02 seconds in a near-empty socially-distanced Turia stadium, Uganda’s Cheptegei wiped the last of Ethiopian distance-running great Kenenisa Bekele’s six world records from the books. A three-time Olympic gold medalist, Bekele’s previous mark of 26:17:53 had stood since 2005.

 

Cheptegei’s performance tops a 10,00m progression of distance running greats that also includes a lineage of Paavo Nurmi, Emil Zátopek, Ron Clarke, Henry Rono, and Haile Gebrselassie.

 

A literature lover, Cheptegei made his international debut at the 2014 FISU World University Cross Country Championships in Entebbe, Uganda. Then a language and literature major at Bugema University, Cheptegei outdueled Kenyan student-athlete Daniel Muindi to take the WUC title and help his Ugandan team place second in the men’s team event.

cheptegei wuc2014 mens crosscountryWhile 2020 has been the year of world records for Joshua Cheptegei (in 5th, wearing number 215), he got his international debut at the FISU World University Cross Country Championships in 2014 by winning the individual title

The latest achievement capped an outstanding calendar year for the 24-year-old, who won gold in the 10,000m at last year’s World Championships in Doha and took Bekele’s 5,000m record at the Monaco Diamond League meeting in August.

 

Valencia holds a special place for Cheptegei. He wound up his breakthrough 2019 season with a 10km road race world record in the Spanish coastal city in 26:38, bettering the old mark by six seconds.

 

In addition to the 5km road race world record of 12:51 he set in February just before the COVID pandemic brought international sports events to a grinding halt, Cheptegei has gone three-for-three for world-record-setting performances this year.

cheptegei uganda wuc2014 crosscountryCheptegei (2015) en route to a tightly contest title during the 2014 FISU World University Cross Country Championships

Before the race, Cheptegei acknowledged the local Valencia running and jogging scene.

 

“It’s really special for me to be here. One thing I love about Valencia, of course, is the running culture. You see everybody running the park. It’s inspiring, and this helps as this year has been very difficult. This started with the world half marathon championship being cancelled in March, and of course the Olympic Games in Tokyo.”

 

cheptegei winner 2014wuc crosscountry2014 WUC Cross Country titleist Joshua Cheptegei (centre) with fellow medalists Daniel Muindi (right, silver) and Mark Lokwanomoi (left, silver) on the podium in Entebbe, Uganda

After the race, Cheptegei had words of appreciation, for Bekele and his entourage.

 

“It’s about having the right people around you. Then you can build up to something great. To break a record held by Bekele for 15, 16 years means the world to me. It’s really special.

 

“Today, I fulfilled my dream.”

 

Draping himself in the Ugandan flag for a victory lap, Cheptegie also expressed his intent for the year-deferred Tokyo 2020 Games.

 

“I think tonight is just a confirmation about what still can happen and what I want to achieve in the years to come. “

 

 

Three races, three world records. 2020 has been one for the record books for Cheptegei. Let’s see what the future holds on the track for this ardent reader and passionate storyteller.