By David Monti, @d9monti
(c) 2022 Race Results Weekly, all rights reserved, with permission to use
EUGENE (17-Jul) — Joshua Cheptegei of Uganda successfully defended his world 10,000m title here today at Hayward Field, prevailing in a last-lap burn-up which saw eight men still in contention for the medals at the bell.
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Cheptegei, 25, the world record holder for the distance, clocked 27:27.43 on the strength of a 53.4-second final lap where he held off Kenyan Stanley Mburu and his Ugandan teammate Jacob Kiplimo. Mburu edged Kiplimo, 27:27.90 to 27:27.97, to capture the silver, extending Kenya’s gold medal drought in this discipline to 21 years. American Grant Fisher got fourth after running 53.9 seconds for the final lap and nearly catching Kiplimo.
“For me, I always have goals and I always keep believing in myself,” said Cheptegei who had to wait three years to defend his title because of the pandemic. “My mission is, of course, to become one of the great legends. It takes a difficult mindset, it takes great discipline. Great things are done by incredible people. I can’t say any more.”
Like a true champion, Cheptegei was fully engaged and near the front of the field for the entire race. He let others lead, but cycled to the front several times and was never more than a few steps from the front. After 6800 meters of racing, he put himself in the lead only dropping back slightly on one lap before the finish. The other men in that group of eight at the bell were Ethiopia’s Berihu Aregawi and Selemon Barega (the 2021 Olympic champion), Canada’s Moh Ahmed, Fisher, Kiplimo, Mburu, and Kenyan Daniel Mateiko. Cheptegei had been thinking about what to do on the final circuit and he was ready.
“I realized that I still had a lot of energy in my legs, and no fatigue,” he said when describing his mindset at the bell. “So, I say to myself if I can be in position to control the last lap, keep on making it harder and harder, then it was going to pay off.”
Cheptegei streaked down the backstretch and his rivals scrambled to keep up. With 200 meters to go, he had a clear lead, but the others were still within striking distance. Fisher was running in sixth place, and Mburu, Kiplimo, and Barega were still in contention for the medals. In the homestretch Cheptegei held his form and was able to slightly relax just before the line to flash a smile at the crowd. Mburu and Kiplimo sprinted side by side, with the Kenyan enjoying a mere 7/100ths of a second advantage at the tape.
Meanwhile, Fisher was blasting down the homestretch behind the top-3. He passed Barega with only about four meters to go to grab fourth place.
“I felt like I held the inside and ran a pretty short distance that last lap,” Fisher explained to reporters. “You know, gave it everything on my kick. There’s not too much I would change, I think.”
Ahmed, the Canadian record holder for 5000m and 10,000m and the 2012 Olympic 5000m silver medalist, ended up sixth in 27:30.27. He is a training partner of Fisher’s at the Nike Bowerman Track Club.
“I don’t think me and Grant, we did the best race possible. We didn’t waste a whole lot of energy early on. We kept staying on our feet and we thought we’d have the finishing legs the last 300 meters, 200 meters and those guys just got us.”
In the evening session, most of the favorites advanced in the men’s 1500m semi-finals including all three Olympic medalists from last August: Jakob Ingebrigtsen of Norway (gold), Timothy Cheruiyot of Kenya (silver) and Josh Kerr of Great Britain (bronze). All three men ran in the first of two heats where Ingebrigtsen controlled the pace right up to the bell. He kept things at a reasonable pace, 57.7 through 400m and 1:59.05 through 800m, slow enough to keep his legs fresh for the final.
“I tried to slow down in the beginning and it worked out pretty well, so it’s not too bad,” Ingebrigtsen said.
In the final push to the line, Kerr got the win in 3:36.92, and the surprising young Spaniard, Mario Garcia Romo, bolted down the homestretch to take second in 3:37.01. In his first-ever World Athletics Championships the 23 year-old son of a bricklayer made the final.
“I mean, it’s amazing,” Garcia Romo told Race Results Weekly. “I think that was the dream coming to this year, and in the final I just want to fight for everything. I’m here, I’m here to race against the best, and I’m going to put everything I’ve got on the line.”
Ingebrigtsen finished third (3:37.02) and Cheruiyot fourth (3:37.04). American John Gregorek finished eighth in 3:37.35 and did not advance.
“I was trying to move up with 400 to go,” Gregorek said. “I had a ton left, but sometimes the tactics get so crazy. Thought some more space was going to open up in the last hundred, but I couldn’t find it.”
In the second heat, Kenya’s Kumari Taki tripped 300 meters into the race forcing both New Zealand’s Sam Tanner and the USA’s Josh Thompson to hurdle him. Thompson recovered quickly, finished seventh, and was the final time qualifier in 3:35.55. Tanner finished one place behind and did not advance.
“That first lap when he went down, I wasn’t expecting that to happen and I had to hurdle him,” Thompson explained. “It took a lot out of me.”
At the front Kenya’s Abel Kipsang won unpressed in 3:33.68, followed by Spain’s Mohamed Katir in 3:34.45. Britain’s Jake Wightman got third in 3:34.48.
“It’s not fun coming back within 24 hours and running that quick again,” Wightman said. He added: “I was fifth last time so I had to do better than that and medal. The main job is to get through these rounds. It’s my third global final so I’m getting used to it.”