Cheptegei enters the legend of time


The glamorous Annie Leibovitz photographed the ambiguous Carl Lewis in the 1990s simulating a tack outing with heels. More than heels, the American divo wore high heels. The image was a commission from a tire brand that wanted to graphically show its slogan: “Uncontrolled power is useless”, or what is the same, you will break your nerve if you try to run the 100 meters in less than 10 seconds , or driving a utility vehicle at a hundred an hour, without the right shoes or wheels.

To the brand new world record holder of 5,000 and 10,000 meters, Joshua Cheptegei, He had excess power and lacked control when he wanted to eat the world with 20 years. Now that he is being devoured by world records (four, more than Usain Bolt), the purists of this sport point to his sneakers, rather than his legs, as partial ‘guilty’ of his success.

Uncontrolled running

In 2017 the Cross Country World Cup was held in Kampala, the Ugandan capital, and Cheptegei was part of the local team that faced, among others, the unbeatable croseros of Kenya and Ethiopia. The heat propelled the intrepid champion apprentice to stand out at the head of the race, until he made his compatriots believe that victory was his.

In the final stretch, dehydrated and sunken, the Ugandan rookie fainted in such a way that the cheering crowd was speechless. Cheptegei zigzagged looking for the goal, chaotically guided by what we know in Spanish as a ‘pájara’. In just 500 meters he went from head to finish in 30th position. Even the Ugandan prime minister went down to the locker room to comfort and encourage the kamikaze runner.

The young Joshua then learned a lesson that has served him to enter the legend of time through the front door.

Last Wednesday on the track of Turia StadiumWhen he managed to strip Kenenisa Bekele of her 10,000 meter record, which has been in force for 15 years, the 24-year-old Ugandan athlete offered an insurmountable control lesson: he covered nine kilometers setting his pace at 2.37 minutes every thousand meters, tenths up or down, without leaving an iota of the script set by his coach, the Dutch Addy Ruiter. He only accelerated in the last section, already sure of his strength and with a margin of five seconds that ensured his record.

Cattle thieves

Cheptegei started athletics with his father, runner out of necessity after cattle thieves. In essence, the young Ugandan continues to do the same as his father to earn a living: to run, in his case against that devouring force that steals our lives, which we humans call time. For this, he and his environment have had no qualms about equipping themselves with the best possible technology.

The first challenge Cheptegei faced in trying to be the best and endure to the end was to overcome his frequent injuries, caused by training on rough and uneven terrain. Kapchorwa is a small town located at the foot of Mount Elgon, an extinct volcano that serves as the border between western Kenya and eastern Uganda. Cheptegei resides and trains there with the group led and advised by the Dutchman Jurrie van der Velden.

The frustrated crossover racer found the solution to his physical problems when he collected 60,000 euros in prizes, which he invested in machinery to carve out a dirt track as flat and smooth as possible. His endeavor paid off and months later, and against all odds, he won the Cros World Cup held in Aarhus in 2019, leading the Ugandan sextet to their first team victory against the powerful teams of Kenya and Ethiopia.

In August 2020 and in the midst of a pandemic, Cheptegei, with two world records on the road (10K and 15K) In his locker, he was able to count on the help of his government to charter a plane and leave his country for Europe. In Monaco he achieved his first world record on track, in the 5,000 meters. And last Wednesday at the Estadi del Túria that of 10.000, both held so far by Kenenisa Bekele.

The controversy

The criticisms focus, in this particular case, on the use of Dragonfly, the spikes of Nike evolved from the controversies Vaporfly Y Alphafly, with which Eliud Kipchoge dropped the two-hour marathon in Vienna. Curiously, one of the arguments put forward by the guardians of ground-level technological ethics is unbearably aesthetic: the ultra-light four-centimeter foam soles make the athlete appear to be running on high heels, or crocs.

In any case, the international federation has given the go-ahead for a very sought-after shoe, not only for its quality but also for this free advertising. Cheptegei’s response to this absurd controversy has been the right one: “When I won the Cros World Cup and the 10,000 in Doha or the Diamond League events, no one talked about my shoes. When I achieved the record, boom! Anyway, the only thing I think about now is another challenge, “the Ugandan man said through his Instagram account, more aware than ever that it is not worth being distracted with bullshit. Another way to train your self-control.

For Van der Velden, his mentor, “technological progress is inevitable and part of sport. That does not mean that one record is better or worse than another. The conditions for Bekele 15 years ago were different. They were also different for Ondieki when he fell. for the first time of 27 minutes in 1993. Joshua is the tip of the iceberg of a generation that thanks to athletes like him is going to provide us with many joys “.

Cheptegei’s plans now focus on get a couple of Olympic titles, perhaps in Tokyo and in the Paris Games of 2024 and, around 30 years of age, debut in the distance of Filípides to surpass the record that for the moment belongs to the ‘philosopher’ Kipchoge. His most immediate appointment is in Gdynia (Poland), where the World Half Marathon is held on October 17. Until that day, the Ugandan you have chosen the altitude of the Sierra de Gredos to complete your training.


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