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14 August 2020 | in FISU World University Championships

Former WUC Cross Country champ Cheptegei breaks historic athletics world record

CheptegeiUganda's Jospeh Cheptegei demonstratingly reacts to knocking two seconds off one of the oldest athletics records in the books by running 12:35 for the 5000m at the Monaco 2020 Diamond League (Photo courtesy @MeetingHerculis Twitter)

History was in the making on a hot and humid night at the Monaco 2020 Diamond League as Uganda’s Joseph Cheptegei added a crown atop his sporting palmares with his world record-setting 5000m run of 12:35.36.


In etching his name in the record books, Cheptegei — who got his international start by winning 2014 FISU World University Cross Country Championships — knocked 1.99 seconds off the time Kenenisa Bekele set 16 summers ago.


The Ethiopian Bekele is a sporting legend, known in athletics circles as the greatest distance runner of all-time. He still holds, or has set a host of world record performances from 3,00m to the marathon, in addition to winning three Olympic gold medals among his 26 international titles.


Cheptegei’s Monaco performance was a master class in pacing execution. With metronome consistency, Cheptegei cranked out eleven-and-one-half 60-second laps around the Stade Louis II athletics track before kicking home in 59.3 for the final 400 metres en route to claiming the 5,000m world record.


The past calendar year has seen the 23-year old Cheptegei to be in the form of his life, having been the first man to break 13 minutes in 5,000m on the road earlier this year before the COVID-19 pandemic hit. Cheptegei was on a tear 2019 as well,  winning world championship gold in the 10,000m in Doha, setting the 15km road world record (41:05),  as well as both the individual and team titles at the 2019 IAAF World Cross Country Championships.


Leading into Monaco, Cheptegei said he would set the 5000m world record. And in his first official athletics competition of 2020, he has.


12:35.36, simply amazing.

220314wuccc4Joseph Cheptegei, wearing number 215, in the leading group at the 2014 FISU World University Cross Country Championship before pulling away late to take his first international title. "It's were I got my start," Cheptegei said.

With Cheptegei putting on the standout performance for the first full international gathering of the track and field season, it was another student-athlete in recent University of Lausanne graduate and Napoli 2019 Summer Universiade medalist Alja Del Ponte who pulled off the night’s biggest upset. The Rio 2016 Olympian broke first from the blocks, then slightly increased the advantage throughout to win the women’s 100m dash in 11.16.



"It was impressive, a demonstration of mastery " Del Ponte's coach, Laurent Meuwly told broadcasters after the race. "She came out of the starting blocks well, but the difference was in the last thirty meters, where she kept a lot of pace without breaking up – unlike her opponents.”


Making Del Ponte’s performance all the more impressive was the race was her first individual Diamond League appearance.

Del Ponte Covid CongratsWorld medalist Ivorian sprinter Marie Josée Ta Lou congratulates Del Ponte's performance with a Covid-appropriate acknowledgement after the Swiss athlete's victory in the Monaco women's 100m