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Cheptegei ponders fitness levels ahead of Commonwealth Games

Joshua Cheptegei. File Photo

Kampala, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | Long distance star athlete Joshua Cheptegei is not sure whether he will defend his 10,000m Commonwealth medal in Birmingham next week.

While addressing the media on Tuesday night at Entebbe International Airport, Cheptegei said because of a slight injury he is nursing, he is not able to confirm at the moment if he will participate in the Birmingham Commonwealth Games.

He is expected to defend his 5,000m and 10,000m titles at the Games, having clinched double gold in the 2018 edition held in Gold Coast, Australia.

Cheptegei says he is hungry for the gold medals. He however says even if he does not participate in the games, he is confident that Team Uganda athletes participating from July 28 to August 8 will win medals.

He made the statement on Tuesday upon his return from the World Athletics Championships at Oregon in the United States of America. The aircraft landed after 11pm. David Katende, the Assistant General Secretary of the National Council of Sports on behalf of government and Dominic Otuchet, the President of Uganda Athletics Federation led the delegation that received Cheptegei at the airport.

Cheptegei sustained a tendon injury after participating in the 5000m heats in Oregon. The injury, according to the head coach of the Uganda Police Athletics club Benjamin Njia made it hard for Cheptegei to clinch a second gold medal, having won the 10,000m race earlier on.

Due to the injury, Chepetegei slowed down his pace from the 8th lap until the final lap where he finished in ninth place. Njia said Cheptegei slowed down to avert worsening the injury, which will now be assessed to ascertain whether or not he can participate in the Commonwealth Games.

The 25-year-old Cheptegei says he is going to focus on his recovery for now. He however explained that he made a mistake in the 5,000m qualifier by among others varying his pace unlike in the 10,000m races where he kept a steady pace and accelerated in the last 300 metres.

He says he learnt from Oregon that Team Uganda athletes must work as a team, be tactical, persevere and love what they are doing so as to win medals.

Cheptegei also says Ugandan athletes have proven in the past events that they can now compete or even out compete Kenyans and Ethiopians in the long distance races. He added that his journey to fame started in 2014 when he won a gold medal in the 10,000m race at the World U-20 Championships in Oregon, USA. So he has fond memories of Oregon.

Cheptegei however says the government needs to invest heavily in sports infrastructure such completion of the High Altitude Training Centre at Teryet, build stadia in all the regions among others to tap into the potential of upcoming sportsmen and women.

Otuchet says Cheptegei is Uganda’s most decorated athlete so far and should be celebrated for marketing Uganda abroad and inspiring and grooming young athletes.

Cheptegei among others is the current world record holder in both 5,000m and 10,000m, reigning Olympic champion in the 5,000m and silver medalist in the 10,000m Olympic race.

Katende on his part noted that the government will organise one function to welcome back all the athletes after most events such as the Commonwealth Games have been concluded.

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