In the foot-steps of Akii Bua
The only other Ugandan to hold an athletics world best is Joshua Cheptegei. He already holds other Ugandan firsts, including his recent 10,000m World Championship gold.
Cheptegei became only the second Ugandan athlete after legend John Akii-Bua to set a world best time, with his stunning run last year at the 15km NN Zevenheuvelenloop (Seven Hills Race) in Nijmegen, The Netherlands.
He continued his rise in long distance athletics by running the world’s fastest 15k in 41.05 minutes, taking 8 seconds off the previous mark set in 2010.
Cheptegei’s feat put him in the league of world beaters, first achieved by Uganda’s most famous athlete, hurdler John Akii-Bua in 1972. Interestingly, like Akii-Bua, Cheptegei runs for Police.
Enter Kipchoge Keino
Kipchoge was born in Kapsisiywa, Nandi County in western Kenya.
At 18 he beat two legendary runners, the Moroccan Hicham El Guerrouj and Ethiopia’s Kenenisa Bekele, to became 5,000 metre world champion in Paris in 2003
In 2012, after failing to qualify for the London Olympics, Kipchoge switched to marathon running.
With his compact silhouette and unwavering stride as the miles tick by, Kipchoge is perfectly suited to the longer distance.
Out of 12 marathons, he has lost just once: in his 2013 debut in Berlin, against compatriot Wilson Kipsang, who broke the world record that day.
Kipchoge set his world record, 2hr 1min 39sec, in the Berlin race in 2018.
He had met coach Patrick Sang in 2001 and joined the fabled running stable in the foothills of the Rift Valley a year later.
The champion’s often mischievous gaze hardens when the subject of doping arises. Kipchoge has never been caught up in scandal, but the reputation of his Kenyan compatriots has raised questions.
Kipchoge, who will defend his Olympic title in Tokyo next year, is fixated on Saturday’s challenge.
“I have visualised it. I have put it in my heart and my mind that I will break the two-hour barrier,” he said.
Six Ugandan pacemakers
Jacob Kiplimo 🇺🇬
Ronald Musagala 🇺🇬
Abdallah Mande 🇺🇬
Thomas Ayeko 🇺🇬
Mande Bushendich 🇺🇬
Timothy Toroitich 🇺🇬
World Cross Country silver medalist Jacob Kiplimo leads a team of six Ugandans who will help Kipchoge .
Kiplimo will be joined by Ronald Musagala and Abdallah Mande, fresh from the World Athletics Championships.
The others are long distance aces Thomas Ayeko, Mande Bushendich and Timothy Toroitich, in a 41 team of pace setters. Others are Norwegian siblings Henrik, Filip and Jakob Ingebrigtsen, also fresh from Doha.
Olympic champion and world record holder Kipchoge has already had one tilt at a sub two-hour time at the Monza race track in May 2017.
On that occasion the 34-year-old was just 25 seconds off the mark in a specially-prepared race using a pacemaker vehicle, as well as runners positioned to shield him in a bid to cut wind resistance.
The assistance meant his time could not be validated by the IAAF. That will also be the case in Vienna. The world record, which the Kenyan set in Berlin last year, is 2hr 01min 39sec.
SOURCES: INEOS159 MEDIA & newafricanmagazine