Athletics

2023 Reviewed: Uganda’s Triumphs in Athletics

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In a remarkable display of talent and determination, the Ugandan contingent, led by the illustrious Joshua Cheptegei, clinched two gold medals at the World Athletics Championship held in Hungary this August.

Cheptegei, the team captain, once again proved his mettle by successfully defending his 10,000m title, outpacing formidable rivals such as Kenya’s Daniel Ebenyo and Selemon Barega. His awe-inspiring performance not only secured victory but also continued to capture the hearts of Ugandans, further cementing his legacy as an extraordinary athlete on the global stage.

Joshua Cheptegei won third successive 10,000m gold this year to cement his position as one of the best | Courtesy Photo

In another triumphant moment for Ugandan athletics at the championship, Victor Kiplangat secured the elusive marathon gold, marking Uganda’s first victory in this event since 2013 in Moscow, Russia, clinched by Steven Kiptortich. Kiplangat’s stellar performance, crossing the finish line in 2:08:53, heralded a moment of immense pride for Uganda.

Victor Kiplangat won Uganda’s first marathon title since 2013 | Courtesy Photo 

With these notable achievements, Uganda solidified its place in the global standings, finishing 11th overall in the medal tally at the championship. While the USA led with an impressive 12 gold medals, countries like Canada (4), Spain (4), Jamaica (3), and Kenya (3) rounded out the top five.

Among Uganda’s other standout athletes were Halima Nakaayi, securing an 8th place finish in the 800m, Peruth Chemutai’s commendable seventh position in the 3000m steeplechase, Tarsis Orogot making it to the semifinals of the 200m, and Steven Kiisa’s strong fifth-place finish in the men’s Marathon.

Despite facing setbacks such as Sarah Chelangat and Prisca Chesang missing out on the 5000m final, and Oscar Chelimo’s unfortunate injury preventing him from finishing the 5000m, Uganda’s contingent bid farewell to the Budapest World Athletics Championship, securing two gold medals. Marathoner Victor Kiplangat and his training partner Joshua Cheptegei, who retained the 10,000m title, contributed to Uganda’s success, propelling the nation to an 11th place finish on the medal table, now ranked third in Africa.

The chapter closed in Hungary with Uganda’s athletes showcasing their talent and fortitude on the global stage.

In another exceptional showcase of prowess at the inaugural World Mountain and Trail Running Championships in Thailand, Ugandan athletes Samuel Kibet, Rebecca Cheptegei, and Leonard Chemutai claimed three out of four titles. Kibet and Cheptegei triumphed in senior up-and-down mountain races, while Chemutai secured the junior men’s title.

Kibet and the Ugandan team claimed three out of four titles at WMTRC in Thailand

Uganda’s dominance extended across various races, exemplifying their strength in mountain running.

Despite Uganda’s remarkable performances, Switzerland and Britain also showcased remarkable feats, securing team titles. The event concluded with an announcement of the 2023 Championships in Innsbruck-Stubai, Tyrol, Austria early in November.

Earlier in February, Jacob Kiplimo, representing Uganda, displayed exceptional prowess by clinching the 2023 World Cross-country title in Bathurst, Australia, completing the challenging race in a remarkable 29:17 minutes. Meanwhile, Joshua Cheptegei, the 2019 winner, secured the bronze medal behind Berihu Aregawi. Kiplimo’s stellar performance not only solidified his position as the Commonwealth double champion but also earned him both the Cross-country and Half-Marathon world titles.

Kiplimo was also stellar this year.

Continuing their extraordinary streak, World Record Holder Kiplimo and Cheptegei secured the top positions at the Men’s 2023 New York City Half Marathon in March. Their outstanding runs earned Uganda gold and silver, with Kiplimo finishing in 1:01:31 and Cheptegei closely behind with a time of 1:02:09.

Adding another feather to his cap, World Marathon Champion Kiplangat furthered his accolades by being named the August Athletics Athlete of the Month at the esteemed Fortebet Real Star Sports Awards. His outstanding achievements outshone those of his compatriots Joshua Cheptegei and Stephen Kissa, earning him this prestigious recognition.

Still in 2023, the transition from track to road running was exemplified by Stella Chesang, the 2018 Commonwealth 10,000m champion, who showcased her remarkable talent on the streets of Hamburg. She sealed her transition with an impressive performance, securing third place in the Hamburg Marathon with a remarkable time of two hours, 20 minutes, and 23 seconds. Her journey was one of resilience and dedication, especially considering that she became a mother two years prior. Despite this significant milestone in her life, Chesang recommenced her training early last year, demonstrating immense commitment to her sport. Her debut in the 42 km at the Hamburg Marathon in late April marked a momentous occasion, as she not only participated but also set a notable fourth-place record, reaffirming her prowess in the marathon distance.

Stellah Chesang’s transaction from track to road running was impressive| Courtesy Photo 

During his inaugural marathon attempt, Cheptegei, renowned as the world record holder in both the 5000m and 10,000m distances, faced unexpected challenges in Valencia. Finishing in 37th place with a time of 2:01:48 on December 3rd, Cheptegei’s performance fell short of the anticipated high expectations.

The race started promisingly for the elite runner as he remained among the leading pack for the initial half of the marathon. However, Cheptegei faced difficulties thereafter, gradually losing pace and dropping from contention. Ethiopia’s Sissay Lema emerged victorious in the Valencia Marathon with a time matching Cheptegei’s, thereby claiming the mantle previously held by Kenya’s Kelvin Kiptum.

Looking ahead, Cheptegei is set to defend his 10,000m gold medal in the forthcoming Olympics. This event is anticipated to be his final major track race, marking a significant moment in his illustrious career.

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