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Cheptegei and Kiprotich carry Uganda’s last medal hopes

Mutai and Kiprotich will be the last Ugandans in action Sunday. Uganda is yet to win a medal. PHOTO IAAF
Mutai and Kiprotich will be the last Ugandans in action Sunday. Uganda is yet to win a medal. PHOTO IAAF

Saturday August 20
Men’s 1500m final (3.00am Sunday)

Men’s 5000m final (3.30am Sunday)

Joshua Kiprui Cheptegei

Sunday August 21

Men’s Marathon final 3.30pm

Solomon Mutai, Jackson Kiprop and Stephen Kiprotich


The Ugandan team in Rio is in exactly the same position they were at the last Olympic Games – one day to the closing ceremony, no medal won.

Like at the last games, everyone else in team Uganda had simply participated and it had been left to the track and field team to compete. History is repeating itself, with the athletics long distance races the last hope the country is holding onto for glory of any kind.

The onus now is on nineteen-year-old 5,000m runner Joshua Cheptegei and Olympic champion Stephen Kiprotich, 27, and his marathon team, to change that. The two races will be just 12 hours apart.

Like at London 2012, Kiprotich could be the throw of the last dice only that this time he will not have the surprise element. The surprise element could actually come from his colleagues in that race Solomon Mutai and Jackson Kiprop.

First in action Saturday will be Cheptegei in the 5000m final. Uganda has been in the final of this race for the past two games, with Moses Kipsiro finishing 4th in Beijing and 15th in London.

In finishing 6th in the 10,000m final on his debut a week back, and strolling to qualification in the 5000m heats, Cheptegei has already shown he has the pace to take on the best.

Experience will be Cheptegei’s biggest undoing, having just moved from the junior ranks a year ago. It showed in the 10,000m final where he run a cautious pace, not his own race, and when others struck, he had no response.

Britain's Mo Farah (R) shakes hands with Uganda's Joshua Kiprui Cheptegei after they competed in the Men's 5000m Round 1 during the athletics event at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games at the Olympic Stadium in Rio de Janeiro on August 17, 2016. / AFP PHOTO / Fabrice COFFRINI
Britain’s Mo Farah (R) shakes hands with Uganda’s Joshua Kiprui Cheptegei after they competed in the Men’s 5000m Round 1 . They battle again today. PHOTOS AFP

Britain's Mo Farah (2ndL) competes in the Men's 10,000m during the athletics event at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games at the Olympic Stadium in Rio de Janeiro on August 13, 2016. / AFP PHOTO / OLIVIER MORIN

Cheptegei has one of the fastest times in the world this year in the 5000m of 13:00.60 (6th best), and if running three top races in a week has not drained him, will be with the leaders going into the last two laps of the 12.5 lap race. The big question, as commentators at the Games would ask, is, will he at that point be running on an empty tank?

The Ugandan is up against the experience of Mo Farah and a host of Ethiopians out to dethrone the Briton in one of the last individual race of the games.The nature of this final is changed by the fact that no Kenyans made it to the final.

If Mo can win his second gold of these Games he will become the first man since Finland’s Lasse Viren in 1976 to defend two Olympic distance titles.

It will be the Ethiopians, two-time world medallist Hagos Gebrhiwet and 2012 Olympic silver medallist Dejen Gebremeskel and Cheptegei who will take on Farah.

 

Musagala’s final

Ronald Musagala’s 1,500m Olympic dream remained alive when he qualified Thursday night for the final in a race where favourite is Kenyan Asbel Kiprop and  Algeria’s defending champion Taoufik Makhloufi.

 

The Marathon on last day

Uganda will field its most experienced team when the marathon starts, 12 hours after Cheptegei’s race.

The three, Kiprotich, Kiprop and Mutai have competed at the very top level for the last five years.

Kiprotich has since London 2012 added the 2013 world title to his accolades, while Mutai  snatched bronze at the last world championships in Beijing.

Kiprop on the other hand has finished 10th in the last two world championships.


Favourite in the marathon is Kiprotich’s training partner Eliud Kipchoge. Kipchoge is chasing the final piece of his Olympic medal collection at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games.

Kipchoge has a 5000m silver medal from Beijing 2008 and a bronze in the same event at Athens 2004. He missed selection for London 2012 and then made the switch to marathon. He has been the outstanding road runner since then.

 

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