Ugandan shows more speed and strength than his rivals in thrilling last lap burn-up as US hope Grant Fisher narrowly misses a medal

It’s been eight years since the World Under-20 Championships were held in Eugene and a number of medallists from 2014 have stayed the course and are among the contenders at this week’s World Championships. They include Dina Asher-Smith, Karsten Warholm, Trayvon Bromell and Joshua Cheptegei – and the latter struck gold again at Hayward Field on Sunday (July 17).

The Ugandan claimed the junior crown in 2014 at 10,000m and utilising his deceptively fast finish he triumphed over the same distance this week with 27:27.43 after a pulsating last lap battle.

After winning the same title in Doha in 2019, it meant Cheptegei successfully defended his crown. This came courtesy of a 53.4 last lap and 1:53 final 800m to see off Kenya’s Stanley Mburu and fellow Ugandan Jacob Kiplimo as American Grant Fisher, roared on by his home crowd, finished a fighting fourth.

“I knew that if I could get into the last fight, I could control it and I could speed it up,” said Cheptegei. “It was very emotional for me to come back to the USA where I started my international career in 2014. Now, I want to continue my dominance in long distance running and I hope I will manage it.”

The race began in relatively sedate fashion with the runners passing halfway in 14:01.3 before the pace began to speed up with Kiplimo hitting the front and Cheptegei doing his share at the front too.

Despite the injection of pace there were still 15 runners left with 2km to go. With two laps to go this was whittled down to eight men. Britain’s Patrick Dever, however, was not one of them. Not enjoying a good day, the US-based Preston Harrier wound up a disappointed 23rd in 29:13.88.

At the bell Berihu Aregawi, the Diamond League champion from last year, held the lead but it was short-lived as Cheptegei hit the front with 300m to go and would not relinquish pole position despite a number of fast finishers queueing up behind him.

Joshua Cheptegei (Getty)

Selemon Barega, the Olympic champion from Ethiopia, looked particularly dangerous but fell out of contention in the closing sprint-out and wound up fifth, just ahead of Mo Ahmed of Canada and Aregawi.

Runner-up Mburu was a surprise package. The 22-year-old won 5000m silver at the World Under-20 Championships in 2018 and here he clocked 27:27.90 despite an early stumble in the race.

In third, Kiplimo replicated the bronze he won in Tokyo last year, while Fisher gave it his all in fourth and described the race as like a chess match. “I played quite a good game,” he reflected.

Elsewhere in the men’s events on Sunday morning in Eugene, Bayapo Ndori of Botswana was fastest in the 400m heats in 44.87 as world record-holder Wayde van Niekerk of South Africa also looked good with 45.18, while UK record-holder Matt Hudson-Smith won his heat easily in 45.49 and GB team-mate Alex Haydock-Wilson also progressed with 45.62.

» To subscribe to AW magazine, CLICK HERE