Ugandan Cheptengei Ends Kamworor World Cross Senior Men's Reign

Mar 30 - by Mutwiri Mutuota for SportPesa News

Two years after heartache in Kampala, 22 year-old turns tables on Kenyan two-time champion in fine style to make history

Joshua Cheptengei (left) and countryman Jacob Kiplimo (right) sandwich Geoffrey Kipsang Kamworor during the men 10km senior title at Aarhus 2019 IAAF World Cross on Saturday, March 30. PHOTO/IAAF

  • Two years ago, in front of a screaming home crowd led by his country's leader, President Yoweri Kaguta Museveni in Kampala, Cheptengei was on course to become the first Ugandan to own the Holy Grail of the World Cross when he opened a sizeable 12 second lead over Kamworor
  • Uganda further won the team title to crown a majestic performance on the difficult course with Cheptengei, turning the tables on Kamworor to steal the thunder a great event that witnessed high drama from the opening race to the final showdown that went down at a course billed as the most difficult in the history of the now biannual event
  • It was then left for the Ugandan pair to chase history as the first runner from their nation to win the Holy Grail of the World Cross

AARHUS, Denmark- All reigns come to an end and in the case of Geoffrey Kipsang Kamworor, there was no shame in losing his senior men IAAF Cross Country crown to a man who seemed to have destiny behind him- Uganda's Joshua Cheptengei- on Saturday afternoon at Aarhus 2019 in Denmark. 

Two years ago, in front of a screaming home crowd led by his country's leader, President Yoweri Kaguta Museveni in Kampala, Cheptengei was on course to become the first Ugandan to own the Holy Grail of the World Cross when he opened a sizeable 12 second lead over Kamworor.

But in one of the most sensational collapses of all time, Cheptengei faded badly and the Kenyan reeled him in and went on to hold on to the title he first won at Guiyang 2015 in China.

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On Saturday, Cheptengei came ready and exacted his revenge in the most glorious of fashions to deny Kamworor his senior men World Cross hat-trick. Uganda's day in the sun was not complete.

Countryman Jacob Kiplimo, the Under 20 champion from Kampala 2017, took silver in 31:44, four seconds in arrears for the 1-2 as Kamworor's brave title defence ended with the timer stopping at 31:55 for bronze.

It was not the colour he came for but by scaling the podium at yet another world event, the three-time IAAF World Half Marathon winner continued his fine record as a championship medal machine.

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Uganda further won the team title to crown a majestic performance on the difficult course with Cheptengei, turning the tables on Kamworor to steal the thunder a great event that witnessed high drama from the opening race to the final showdown that went down at a course billed as the most difficult in the history of the now biannual event.

Hill work

"I'm happy with the bronze since that is what I have got. The course was very tough and the race was good. It was hilly and I tried all I could," Kamworor gracefully remarked after his reign came to an end.

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"This is the gold I really wanted. I did a lot of hill work in Kapchorwa to prepare for this and I'm happy it all paid off," the delighted Ugandan gushed.

Uganda's Joshua Cheptengei celebrates winning the senior men 10km race at Aarhus 2019 IAAF World Cross Country Championships on Saturday, March 30, 2019. PHOTO/IAAF

Just like in Kampala 2017, it was the Ugandans who got off running well, with the Kenyans and Ethiopians sitting back with Jacob Kiplimo and Thomas Ayeko at the front with Kamworor a stop or two behind.

Kiplimo was leading the hill charge and the tight pack at the front was surprisingly bereft of Kenyan and Ethiopian vests. Only Kamworor was running near the front, looking cautious 12 minutes into the race.

The lead pack included Ethiopian hopeful Selemon Barega in sixth, a second behind the leaders, just ahead of Kenyan Rhonex Kipruto with history-chasing Kamworor among them, tucked in behind Kiplimo.

The Ugandan is still young enough to have defended his U20 title but he opted instead to take on the big boys. 

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Aron Kifle of Eritrea and Joshua Cheptegei- the man who was on course for the senior title at his home event in Kampala are also in that lead group.

Kifle then made a move for the lead with Kamworor- the Guiyang 2015 and Kampala 2017 gold winner- covering that surge as he kept his interest in the top medal withing his sights.

In the punishing Aarhus course, Kiplimo then went round Kifle to re-take command as the race turned into a game of chess inside the third of the five laps of this 10km affair.

Kipruto, just outside in fourth, kept in touch with the leading trio with countryman Kamworor tucked in between the two Ugandans and a step ahead of the Eritrean.

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Down slope

In the down slope as they approached the mud barrier, the two Ugandans who were running shoulder to shoulder, blocking the Kenyan favourite stretched their legs with Kifle refusing to let the leaders build a significant advantage.

Kiplimo then accelerated up the hill, severely testing Kamworor as they came to the final circuit, going at a punishing pace of 6:08 with the other Ugandan closing the top three.

The trio were tightly bunched in the last embers of the race with and they approached the hill, Cheptengei, the double Commonwealth Games champion, then took his turn to attack the front with the Kenyan hanging on.

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His countryman moved up to second with Kamworor detached from the leading pair, looking very uncomfortable, as his title defence faced its sternest test.

Cheptengei, 22, who had a bad road accident in December, motored away with Kamworor dropped.

It was then left for the Ugandan pair to chase history as the first runner from their nation to win the Holy Grail of the World Cross.

At the final up-slope, it was Cheptengei who completed a dream victory and with end, ended the four year rule of the imperious Kamworor.

Leading results

1 Joshua CHEPTEGEI UGA 31:40

2 Jacob KIPLIMO UGA 31:44

3 Geoffrey KAMWOROR KEN 31:55

4 Aron KIFLE ERI 32:04

5 Selemon BAREGA ETH 32:16

6 Rhonex KIPRUTO KEN 32:17

7 Thomas AYEKO UGA 32:25

8 Andamlak BELIHU ETH 32:29

9 Thierry NDIKUMWENAYO BDI 32:29

10 Joel AYEKO UGA 32:32