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Cheptegei can look back at 2020 as his best year ever

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JOHANNESBURG – Despite missing out on the male World Athlete of the Year award, Ugandan Joshua Cheptegei can look back at his performances in 2020 as some of the best ever.

Cheptegei, who set world records in three different events this year, was considered the favourite in the men’s World Athlete of the Year, but that honour went to pole vault world record holder Mondo Duplantis of Sweden.

Cheptegei set a world 5km (road) record in his first race of 2020 back in February in Monaco, and that set the tone for a phenomenal year for the runner who turned 24 in September.

During his season opener in Monaco, Cheptegei ran alone from the start and blitzed through the first kilometre in 2:31. His pace dropped only slightly during the middle section of the race and he charged through the finish line in 12:51 to take 27 seconds off the previous record.

“When my legs felt good during the race, I decided to really go for it,” he said.

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.

Cheptegei returned to the principality six months later for his first track race of the year. Racing in the 5000m at the Herculis Wanda Diamond League meeting, Cheptegei had made no secret of his desire to break Kenenisa Bekele’s 16-year-old world record of 12:37.35.

Passing through 3000m in 7:35.2, Cheptegei’s pace was metronomic as he churned out consistent 61-second laps. He covered the final circuit in 60 seconds flat to stop the clock at 12:35.36, improving the world record by two seconds.

Cheptegei then turned his focus to the 10,000m – the distance at which he is world champion – and another world record attempt, this time in Valencia on October 7. And once again, he succeeded.

Also read: Highlight of my year was the 5000m race in Monaco, says Cheptegei

With the help of pacemakers, Cheptegei reached the halfway point in 13:07.73. He was alone for the final 12 laps and the pace dropped slightly during the sixth kilometre, but, helped by wavelight pacing, he managed to get back on world record schedule.

Roared on by the few spectators and officials the Turia Stadium, Cheptegei crossed the line in 26:11.00, taking more than six seconds off Bekele’s world record.

“I was trying to remake history so that people will have something to enjoy,” he said. “Sport lovers of the world can have something to remember.”

African News Agency (ANA)

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