- Date of birth: September 12, 1996
- Major Races: 5000m, 10000m
- Manager: Jurrie van der Velden
- Kit Sponsor: Nike
- Personal Bests: 5000m (12:59.83), 10000m (26:49.94)
- Medal cabinet
2014 World University X-Country Gold
2014 World Junior 10000m Gold
2015 Africa 10000m Gold
2017 World 10000m Silver
2018 Commonwealth 5000m Gold
His meteoric rise was lit up again yesterday by a rather comfortable victory to 5,000m gold at the Carrara Stadium during the on-going Commonwealth Games on the Gold Coast in Queensland, Australia.
Opting to relax from the back at the start, pre-race favourite Joshua Cheptegei charged to take the lead with five laps left, winning his first senior track title in 13 minutes and 50.38 seconds.
“I knew I had it all wrapped up going into the final two laps; all I had to do was to keep it easy and get to the finish line,” triumphant Cheptegei would say after beating competition off Canadian Mohammed Ahmed in the final stretch.
Not many Ugandan athletes rise through from the junior ranks to the top stage. Some do, like Boniface Kiprop who bagged 10,000m junior gold in Italian city Grosseto before claiming Commonwealth gold two years later in Melbourne, but they do not last the mile.
Had it not been for his focus, Cheptegei could have given up when he burnt out terribly to wither from first to 30th place in the senior men’s 10km race at World Cross-country Championships in Kololo, Kampala, on March 26, 2017.
The 21-year-old was subject to banter from fellow countrymen on social media platforms WhatsApp, Twitter and Facebook that he had run in italics.
His responses has not only been solid but also spectacular. He beat a trio of Kenyans to take silver behind Great Britain’s Mo Farah in the 10,000m at the London World Championships August last year.
And having made a top-four finish in seven of eight races last year, Cheptegei’s feat yesterday ensured Uganda’s anthem played for the sixth time in four Commonwealth editions.
But that musical composition by George Kakoma will play with Cheptegei top of the podium a little more even beyond Gold Coast.
“He is a star for the future,” warned his Dutch manager Jurrie van der Velden of Global Sports Communication after four-time Olympic champion Farah survived Cheptegei by a whisker last August.
Uganda’s most decorated runner Kipsiro’s spikes delivered three Commonwealth golds, a World 5000m bronze and a silver and bronze from the World Cross-Country. Cheptegei’s progression looks to surpass that already.
A series of knee problems often curtailed Kipsiro against Ethiopia’s great Kenenisa Bekele, Kenyan Eliud Kipchoge, Farah and Kenyan-born American Bernard Lagat in his track time.
But Cheptegei looks set to lead the next generation of track long-distance runners alongside Kenyan training partner Geoffrey Kamworor.
With his vastly improved finish to races over the last 20 months, there is all to vindicate the sense of more gold at the Doha Worlds next year and the Tokyo 2020 Olympics.
“Every race in 2018 is to prepare me for those two big events,” the Kapchorwa-based athlete told Daily Monitor before descending down to Australia.
But Cheptegei’s triumph today presents a long look down memory lane when sometime in July 2014, a new talent silently came to the fore of Ugandan athletics.
Then, much attention was on marathoner Stephen Kiprotich, who had added a World title to his Olympic gold in Russian capital Moscow the year before.
Classy Moses Kipsiro was in the departure lounge of his track career, less than a month before his third Commonwealth gold in Scotland.
It is here that little-known Joshua Cheptegei beat the field at the Hayward Field to 10,000m gold at the World Junior Athletics Championships in Oregon, USA.
And almost five years later, Cheptegei is the track face of Uganda’s athletics.