It is often one thing to quest for consistency and totally another to explore perfection. Joshua Cheptegei – a purveyor of beauty and ecstasy (both equally important), has for the longevity of his career gone ahead to breathe life into this accession and undo the outrageous myth that inconsistency is an inevitability.
This he did at a time where most Ugandans seemed despondent, especially tracking back to his shortcomings during the 2017 World Cross Country Championships hosted by Uganda.
He had earlier thrilled the home fans by taking a nearly unbeatable lead in the senior 10 Kilometer race. His untimely gasp for breath in the last lap however meant defeat as he started slowing down, and wilted as fatigue took over his body.
He struggled through the last kilometer and stumbled past the finish line in 30th position in an almost drunken stupor. This disappointment however played a huge role in his future victories with the world record-breaking 5,000m triumph in Monaco being the latest.
This conquest goes to show that all desires are valid to a man with a full purse. It also shows that belief and discipline are paramount to success.
This explains his modesty despite the overwhelming milestones reached thereby earning him the superman reputation. It is indeed a rare enough thing, a man who lives up to his reputation.
I for one actually share the same school of thought that his dominion over both 5000m and 10,000m began in 2018 and has since continued especially now that Mo Falah happens to be edging closer to that culmination of his career.
Did he ever consider trying a different sport?
Sources close to him highlight how football was his first love growing up in Kwoti village (Kapchorwa District), a high altitude area in Eastern Uganda. This is the same area that produced the London 2012 Olympic marathon champion Stephen Kiprotich.
He would however at times attempt the triple and long jump while in primary school but the idea of team sport seemed to transcend all in his mindset. This was something that prompted his long-term local coach Benjamin Njia to take him up.
A few years down the road and the decision seems justified.
Following his superb run at the World Juniors, he was drafted by the Uganda Police for his progression to the senior international circuit. A place where he has developed as a person both in rank and discipline thanks to his athletics prowess.
Route to Success
His journey to success is one to write home about. It wasn’t easy growing up as narrated by people close to him but soon learned that the contents of a man’s letters are more valuable to the contents of his wallet.
Step by step, one distasteful task after another, he made his way from the remote areas of Kwoti to being this sports icon that most Ugandans lookup to.
As often said, Influence grows like a weed. He tended his with patience until its tendrils reached from the Kampala all the way across to the far side of the world where he managed to wrap them around something very special and created positive chaos.
Chaos which happens to be a ladder. Many who try to climb it fail but never get to try again. The fall breaks them; some are given a chance to climb but refuse and cling to other stuff. Illusions but only the ladder is real. The climb is all there is.
In the aftermath of the disappointment in 2017, Cheptegei came back strong to win silver in the10,000meters event at the World Championship in London that same year. This was followed with a new world record for the 15km road race in the following year 2018.
He would later become the cross country world champion in 2019 in Aarhus Denmark before winning gold in the 10,000 meters men’s finals at the World Championships in Doha climaxing an incredible two years.
The other recent milestone has been his triumph in the 2020 road race in Monaco, breaking through the event’s 13 minute-barrier and bettering it with 9 seconds (12:51) from Kenya’s Sammy Kipketer’s (13:00) set in 2000.
Most notably, however, every wellwisher. Ugandan or not will hold August 2020 in high esteem. The day he set a new world record (12:35:36) at the 5000 meters in the Monaco Diamond League Championship.
It was mouthwatering to watch him go on to break a 16-year-old world record of (12:37:35) set by Ethiopian Kenenisa Bekele in Hengelo (Netherlands).
His run was by no means a shock to Ugandans but a shock to the rest of the world with respect to the fact that he was yet to race the 5000m at a major championship since his distance double victory at the 2018 Commonwealth Games in Gold Coast.
The anticipation for his dominance still remains alive as we wait for the Tokyo Summer Olympics that were postponed courtesy of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Future Threats to his dominance
Mo Falah seems out of the picture lately since once the cow has been milked, there is no squirting the cream back up a ladder.
Besides, Cheptegei looks radiant and fresh. That much is beyond dispute. So then, that explains the state of mutual admiration and respect form his counterparts.
Many however often argue that in most cases, belief is so often the death of reason. That is, however, a subjective statement especially considering the focus, discipline, and desire for greatness he represents.
Some are starting to hate his dominance on that note but I personally think that sometimes sovereignty is the price we pay for greatness.
What happens when the elite and fully-existent bumps against the decrepit? A question for the philosophers, I guess.