Uganda long distance running pair of Joshua Cheptegei and Jacob Kiplimo are some of the athletes that are being looked out for in the Men’s 10,000m race at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics. The event will happen on Friday, 30th July 2021 at the Olympic Stadium in Japan at 2: 30 PM EAT.
Another Ugandan runner Stephen Kissa will be part of the race.
The men’s 10,000m is the first track-and-field medal event of the Tokyo Games, with the 25-lap final being contested on the opening day of the athletics programme on 30th July.
For Cheptegei, the 24-year-old will be making his second Olympics appearance after finishing sixth in the 10,000m and eighth in the 5,000m in Rio. For Kiplimo, the 20-year-old will also be making his second appearance at the games but will make his debut in the 10,000m. The two are both attempting the 5000m-10,000m double in Tokyo.
The absence of two-time winner Mo Farah means that the men’s 10,000m race will have a new champion in Tokyo. Farah, who won both the 5000m and 10,000m at both the London 2012 and Rio 2016 Olympics, failed to make the British team for Tokyo.
For the Ugandan fans who are waiting for the first medal at this year’s games, they are largely banking on Cheptegei who has had an exciting career ever since the previous Olympics, breaking three World Records in the process plus claiming silverware in other events.
In August 2020, Cheptegei broke a 16-year-old 5000m World Record at the Monaco Diamond League.
He broke Kenenisa Bekele’s (Ethiopia) record by about two seconds with a winning time of 12 minutes 35.36 seconds to claim a career third world title. Bekele’s winning time was 12:37.35.
In February the same year, Cheptegei broke the 5km road World Record still in Monaco. This was his second world record.
His maiden World Record was when he won the 10,000m world title in Doha in 2019.
Earlier on, Cheptegei earned silver at the 2017 World Championships in London and gold in Doha in 2019. He also completed the 5000m-10,000 double at the 2018 Commonwealth Games in Gold Coast, Australia.
However, the biggest disadvantage for Cheptegei heading into the race is that he hasn’t been having competitions in the 10,000m and it’s the same challenge with some of the participants. For about a year, Cheptegei has only ran in the 1500m, 3000m and 5000m events.
For Kiplimo, some local pundits claim that he is Cheptegei’s possible threat at the games for he has come of age.
Kiplimo has had good stints in the build up to the Olympics including clocking a world-leading 26:33.93 in Ostrava on 19 May, the second-fastest time over the distance since 2008 and elevating him to seventh on the world all-time list.
He claimed the world U20 cross-country title at age 16, claimed silver at the 2019 World Cross Country Championships and became world half-marathon champion in 2020.
Kiplimo qualified for the Olympic 5000m by running 12:55.60 at the Spitzen Leichtathletik Stadion Allmend in Luzern, Switzerland on 30 June, setting him up for the long-distance double in Tokyo.
2015 world silver medallist Geoffrey Kamworor (Kenya) has been one of the top contenders but was forced to pull out with an ankle injury. He’s been replaced by world bronze medallist Rhonex Kipruto, while the other Kenyan contenders are Rodgers Kwemoi, who finished fourth in Doha, and Weldon Kipkirui Langat.
Ethiopia’s top runners are Barega and Yomif Kejelcha, the world silver medallists over 5000m and 10,000m respectively.
The USA entrants are Woody Kincaid, Grant Fisher and Joe Klecker. They finished 1-2-3 at the US Trials, with Kincaid running a blistering final lap to win in 27:53.62.
Meanwhile, eight other Ugandan participants will be in action on the same day.
This include; Kirabo Namutebi (swimming – women’s 50m freestyle, heats) plus runners Albert Chemutai – men’s 3000m SC (heat), Peruth Chemutai – 3000m SC (heats), Sarah Chelengat, Prisca Chesamg and Esther Chebet – 5000m (heats), Halima Nakaayi and Winnie Nanyondo – 800m (heats).
Earlier on Friday, Ugandan rower Kathleen Grace Noble will be competing in the Women’s Single Sculls Final E at 2:15 a.m EAT but rowing schedules are subjected to change due to expected adverse weather conditions (typhoon) in Tokyo Bay.