The IAAF World Athletics awards 2020 this Saturday, December 5 present a good opportunity for Uganda to have one of their own bagging this prestigious award for the first time in the nation’s history.
Joshua Cheptegei is among the five finalists, trimmed down from 10, who are chasing this coveted award. His compatriot Jacob Kiplimo did not make the final five shortlist, unfortunately, a pointer to how competitive this contest is expected to be. However, considering that Cheptegei is making a second successive appearance for this award, after Kenya’s Eliud Kipchoge won it last year, is proof of how impressive he has been. Surely it should be enough for Cheptegei to bag the prize this time, to make him second time lucky.
Cheptegei’s competition includes Ryan Crouser from the USA. He won 10 shot put competitions this year. This included his 22.91 metres world-leading performance, which placed him at an equal third-best placing all time record.
Germany’s Johannes Vetter won eight of his nine javelin competitions, which also included throwing the world’s second farthest distance in history, 97.76 metres, a leading distance of the year. In addition, Norway’s Karsten Warholm pulled off some incredible feats, when he ran his 400 metres hurdles race in 46.87 seconds, which proved to be the second fastest in history.
Warholm was also undefeated in nine 400m/400m hurdles races and set a world best of 33.78 in 300m hurdles. But so did Sweden’s pole vault star, Mondo Duplantis. He broke the world record in the pole vault twice (6.17 metres and 6.18 metres) and produced the highest outdoor vault of all time (6.15 metres).
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Such is the competition Cheptegei is up against. It is undoubtedly formidable. Yet, it remains difficult to downplay Cheptegei. His feats, perhaps received more resounding reviews globally, than any of his adversaries. Cheptegei broke three world records in the 5000 metres, 10,000 metres and 5km on road races.
So many before him came, tried and failed, a mark of what an outstanding athlete Cheptegei has stamped himself to be. He is a novelty. Even with Crouser’s good showing in shot put, he is rated number three in the world ever. Vetter’s javelin throw is the second farthest ever in the history of mankind, as Warholm is the second fastest in 400 metres hurdles.
Against that, Vetter, Warholm and Crouser are likely to be knocked off, which should leave Cheptegei and Duplantis in contention. However, the record that Duplantis broke, had been set by Frenchman Renaud Lavillenie in February 2014. It lasted six years.
Yet, the 5,000 and 10,000 metres records that Cheptegei broke, had stood for 16 and 15 years respectively. Such a long wait proves how much Cheptegei has had to muster, to end the stranglehold on World athletics, legendary Kenenisa Bekele’s records have had.
For what it is worth, since this award was started in 1988, only five winners of the 32, have not been runners. So, this is where Cheptegei may have an edge winning it this time. But the outside chance that would favour Duplantis, is the fact that the man’s whose record he broke, Lavillenie, was male athlete of the year in 2014.