Nothing can go wrong in the world of Joshua Cheptegei these days. The double world record holder is on a run as majestic as any in the history of world athletics.
His CV is only missing an Olympic medal and common consensus is that he will secure gold when the Covid-19-hit games eventually take place later in the year.
For now, Cheptegei can only continue excelling in things he has control over and on Sunday he reminded the world of how he is competing in an elite group of one athlete by winning the 5k Monaco Run in France.
There was no world record this time round but he comfortably beat the Kenyan pair of Bethwell Birgen and Davis Kiplangat to remind the world who the most formidable long-distance runner is today. His time of 13:11 was slower than the world record mark of 12:51 he set in the same city last year but considering that he is only beginning his season ahead of the Olympics, there is every reason to believe his better times will be posted as he nears the Tokyo Games.
Cheptegei, who owns four world records, could not have asked for a better week. He triumphed in Monaco just days after becoming the Uganda Tourism Board (UTB) brand ambassador for Destination Uganda. The reigning Nile Special-Uspa sportsman of the year has become the country’s biggest international superstar and it was just as fitting that UTB entered a partnership with him to promote tourism in the country.
The amount of the deal was not disclosed by UTB but it is said to be highly lucrative and befitting of Cheptegei’s status as one of the most dominant sportsmen in the world. Last year, UTB took Cheptegei and a host of other renowned sportsmen on a tour of Uganda that included a trip to Bwindi Impenetrable Forest national park.
Uganda is blessed with abundant tourism potential that includes good weather, Lake Victoria, the Source of the Nile and various mountains and rich fauna and flora, which UTB will sell to the world using Cheptegei and his social media platforms. UTB chief executive officer Lilly Ajarova was visibly excited after the unveiling of the deal.
“We [UTB] shall brand Cheptegei and his team when engaging in domestic and international events,” she noted.
“We shall also have access to his digital platforms and facilitate his in-land travel while undertaking his tourism activities.” Cheptegei, meanwhile, called it an honour to represent the country as the tourism ambassador and said he was more motivated than ever before ‘to give his all in every race.’’
Several observers are already ranking Cheptegei as Uganda’s greatest-ever athlete, above luminaries like John Akii-Bua and Stephen Kiprotich.
The 25-year-old is a former 10,000 world junior champion, the reigning world cross-country champion, double Commonwealth gold medallist and the current 10,000m world champion after his victory in Doha in 2019.
Cheptegei is the bookmaker’s favourite to win the 5,000 and 10,000m gold at the Tokyo Olympics. His success story in the last three years is testament to his mental fortitude considering how he had to bounce back from the embarrassing failure at the 2017 world cross-country championships in Kampala when he capitulated from a very strong position in the senior men’s 10km run.