Kiplimo and Chebet win back-to-back world cross country titles

Published March 31, 2024
BELGRADE: Athletes in action during the women’s race of the World Cross Country Championships on Saturday.—Reuters
BELGRADE: Athletes in action during the women’s race of the World Cross Country Championships on Saturday.—Reuters

BELGRADE: Uganda’s Jacob Kiplimo and Beatrice Chebet of Kenya successfully defended their world cross country titles in Belgrade on Saturday.

It’s just the fifth time in history that both the senior men’s and women’s champions have retained their titles at the championships — the first since Ethiopian duo Kenenisa Bekele and Tirunesh Dibaba did in (2005/06).

Kiplimo, 23, made it three successive world crowns for Uganda — Joshua Cheptegei winning the 2019 edition — timing 28 minutes 09 seconds over the 10,000m trip.

Kiplimo joins legends Bekele and Paul Tergat in defending the title, although he has still to go some way to equal their achievements of winning five in a row.

“It actually feels more exciting to successfully defend my title than to win the first one,” said Kiplimo. “But it was also tougher. I came here expecting I could win again, but the field was really strong. The course was fine, a little challenging with the obstacles. It was a little tough running in the heat, but that wasn’t a major issue.”

Kiplimo said the title was a perfect boost for his morale after missing the outdoor World Athletics Championships last year due to a hamstring injury.

“I was hungry for medals after missing Budapest last year,” said Kiplimo, who is the world half marathon record holder. “I was in good shape, but then the injury happened and I had to get treatment, but I am back now. My goal this year is to do what Joshua Cheptegei did and win an Olympic gold. My main focus is the 10,000m, but I’m not sure yet if I want to double.”

The 5,000m and 10,000m Commonwealth titleholder finished three seconds clear of Berihu Aregawi of Ethiopia, who also took silver last year in Bathurst, Australia.

Kenya’s Benson Kiplangat took bronze, two seconds adrift of Aregawi — Cheptegei finished a disappointing sixth, 15 seconds off his compatriot’s winning time.

Chebet had earlier become the first female runner since Ethiopian great Dibaba (2005/06) to successfully defend her title leading home a Kenyan medals clean sweep.

The 24-year-old was only fourth in the Kenyan trials for the championships but she came home three seconds clear of Lilian Rengeruk.

Margaret Kipkemboi took bronze, a second adrift of Rengeruk and two other Kenyans filled fourth and fifth spots.

Chebet’s victory was the ninth successive win for Kenya in the women’s race.

“We won the team title, that showed very strong teamwork,” said Chebet. “After trials we trained together, we eat the same food. We were a team and being together helped us achieve the best result here.

“It is not easy to come to a world championship and defend your title, there is a lot of pressure. My target was to be on the podium. I felt I was stronger with about 500m to go.”

Published in Dawn, March 31st, 2024

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