Joshua Cheptegei looking to join select group of men’s Olympic champions in 5 000m and 10 000m
JOHANNESBURG – Ugandan Joshua Cheptegei will be looking to make it into a legendary group of eight, as one of just a handful of men’s runners to win the 5000m and 10 000m titles at the same Olympic Games.
The world record holder in both the 5000m and 10 000m is the odds on favourite to win both events at the Tokyo Olympics scheduled for July and August later this year.
Only seven men have achieved this feat before, with Britain’s Mo Farah reigning supreme at both the 2012 and 2016 Olympics for a total of four titles in the two long distance events on the track at the quadrennial showpiece.
Before Farah, it was Ethiopian Kenenisa Bekele who was the first man to achieve the feat this century. His moment of glory came in 2008 at the Beijing Olympics.
It also means that if Cheptegei were to win the two races in Tokyo this year, the unique double will have been achieved at four Olympic Games in a row.
Hannes Kolehmainen (1912) of Finland, Czechoslovakian Emil Zapotek (1952), Soviet Vladimir Kuts (1956), Lasse Viren (1972 and 1976) of Finland and Ethiopian Miruts Yifter (1980) were the other long distance sensations with this unique distinction of winning 5000m and 10 000m at a single edition of the Olympics. Interestingly, Zapotek in 1952 also won gold in the men’s marathon to make it a phenomenal trio of titles that year.
Cheptegei set a world 5km road record in his first race of 2020 in February in Monaco, and that set the tone for a phenomenal year for the 24-year-old.
The Ugandan went on to break two more world records in 2020, setting new standards for the 5000m and 10,000m, before rounding out his season with a 59:21 clocking at the World Athletics Half Marathon Championships Gdynia 2020 in his debut at the distance.
With the rescheduled Olympics set for Tokyo in July and August - Cheptegei will therefore be the favourite in both the men’s 5000m and 10 000m.
That will be in stark contrast to the 2016 Rio Olympic Games - when Cheptegei was relatively unknown but still produced admirable results as a teenager. In Rio he finished eighth in the 5000m and sixth in the 10 000m.
If Cheptegei were to collect his first Olympic medals in both events, quite possibly gold in hue, it would mean he has double world records, double Olympic gold to go with his 2019 10 000m World Championship victory.
And if those victories do come, Cheptegei may have a legitimate claim to best 5000 and 10 000m athlete of all time.
African News Agency (ANA)