Monday, 27 March 2017

Cheptegei had what it takes to win #iaafKampala2017... Kenyans were lucky!

After two laps of the Kololo course, Cheptegei took charge before fading in the final lap.
He was however actually running as fast as he did on the same course at the national
 championships... so what really happened? PHOTOS KCCAMEDIA
Veteran national coach Nalis Bigingo, like many Ugandans, was critical of Joshua Cheptegei's tactics after Sunday's athletics World Cross Country Championship senior men's race at Kololo in Kampala.

"The boy miscalculated the race. He broke off very very early and could not sustain the pace," Bigingo told me.

"If Joshua was sure about his strength, he should have kept with the leading pack at least until the last lap," Bigingo added. The coach was also not happy with Uganda's Kampala 2017 technical team that should have sent a signal to restrain their 20-year old runner after he broke away in the 3rd lap.

Bigingo  acknowledged Cheptegei's strengths, having coached him as an 18-year-old to the 10,000m gold at  the 2014 World Junior Championships in Oregon, but said the pace he set at Kololo could not be sustained.

Equally critical was former Olympic champion Stephen Kiprotich, who finished 17th at Kololo and helped Uganda's senior men win team bronze and $12,000 (sh43million). Cheptegei's persistence and 30th place finish was crucial in sealing this though.

"I feel sorry for Joshua (Cheptegei) because he was in great shape coming into the race. It is sad he didn’t win," said Kiprotich. "He made a terrible mistake of breaking away so early. He should have waited at least until the last 2km." 

Cheptegei's split times on Sunday
The IAAF website described the final dramatic minutes of the race after Cheptegei set a blistering pace in the 3rd and 4th laps. "Between kilometres four and six he produced a 5:45 lap and picked up even more speed when recording a 5:34 fourth lap, to lead through 8km in 22:21."

IAAF added that, "but with just one lap between Cheptegei and a historic gold for the host nation, his reckless speed combined with the hot and humid conditions began to show." 

Even race winner, Kenya's Geoffrey Kipsang Kamworo put in a word, saying Cheptegei's pace was suicidal.

"I was confident of retaining my title. When the Ugandan broke away I kept my cool and ran my race. I knew he would get tired. His pace was so high and it would have been amazing if he had maintained it to the end,” said Kamworo.

Cheptegei used same style at nationals in January

Well, a close look at Cheptegei's recent performances and the clock HOWEVER show that he was actually running as well as he did two months back when he again destroyed the field to win the Uganda National Cross Country Championships on the same course over 5 laps.

It could be argued that a lot has changed, or the competition and competitors were different, but a look at the times set by the rest of the Ugandan team, shows most of them improved - except Cheptegei and one or two others.

Nearly all Ugandans returned improved times at the world event on Sunday in comparison with what they clocked at the national championships in January - many by as much as a minute.

Team Uganda coach Benjamin Longirosi had actually done a good job, with all the stars set to improve their January performance by at least 30 seconds. Cheptegei, like everyone else, was on track to improve by 30+ seconds.

Just like Kiplimo had done earlier, and which must have been practiced in training, the instruction was "test the pace in the first two laps, then break away". 

Moses Twesigye-omwe, a former national long distance ace, said the experience will be invaluable for Cheptegei.

"Experience is the best teacher. Cheptegei will certainly do better next time. Kenenisa Bekele suffered the same fate in Mombasa in 2007, blamed the climatic conditions (as if he was the only one subjected to them) but came back a year later to regain his supremacy. Watch the Ugandan next year."

Kiplimo wins, runs 45 secs better than in January

Jacob Kiplimo won the 8km junior men's world championship gold in 22:40, this was a whole 45 seconds better than he did at the national trials (23.25). Even Kevin Kibet, the second best Ugandan at 15th, run 2 seconds better.

Uganda's best junior woman Peruth Chemutai improved by close to a minute despite finishing 7th in 19:29, compared to 20:20 when she won in January.

In the senior women's race, best placed Mercyline Chelangat (12th) clocked 33:29, compared to 34:41 when she won the national championships.

In the senior men's race, 9th placed Timothy Toroitich (29:10), 16th Abdallah Kibet Mande (29:25) and 17th placed Stephen Kiprotich  (29:28) all improved their times in comparison with the national championships.

But, Joshua Cheptegei was practically walking when he finished 30th in a time of 0:30:08. 

He won on the same ground in 0:29:02 in January, and if he had improved by 45 seconds as Kiplimo did, or a minute as Chelangat and Chemutai, he should have got the gold and the $30,000 prize he deserved.

From the stats above, Cheptegei was not running beyond the pace he had trained for. He was actually on track and comfortable, but something in his body gave way at the crucial moment.

“Going by what I saw in training, I believe our time for gold has finally come,” Uganda’s Stephen Kiprotich had said before the race. 

Kiprotich was right. Kenya's Kamworor was lucky to win in 0:28:24!


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