Why King Cheptegei decided against running the 5K in Budapest

Cheptegei is a three-time 10;000m World Champion | Courtesy Image

ATHLETICS Why King Cheptegei decided against running the 5K in Budapest

Shafic Kiyaga 13:48 - 24.08.2023

It wasn't a choice made lightly, as the stakes were particularly high for the athlete and for Uganda as a nation.

Joshua Cheptegei, the 10,000m World Champion, will not be charging for the 5000m world title at the 2023 World Athletics Championships in Budapest, it has been confirmed.

Cheptegei was initially scheduled to race in the 5000m heats on August 24, with high hopes for the finals due on August 27.

The decision comes after Cheptegei decimated all the pressure to secure his third straight 10,000m title on Sunday, raising hopes of a potential 10000m and 5000m double.

The choice not to race has effectively halted Cheptegei's aspirations for a global 5000m and 10,000m double, a feat considered crucial to being deemed a long-distance legend.

Cheptegei hypes up Budapest with third consecutive title celebration. Imago

However, the writing was on the wall following his victory ahead of Kenya’s Daniel Simiu Ebenyo and Ethiopia’s Selemon Barega that Cheptegei did not necessarily fancy going for the 5000m, and the decision to withdraw was far from whimsical.

“For me what is very important now is to focus on my recovery and I see if I can still be able to run the 5k,” said Cheptegei post-race on Sunday.

When queried about his 5000m participation, he added; “For me, the target was to win the 10k.”

The reading from that is that Cheptegei and his team carried a safety-first strategy going into the World Championships due to the lingering risks from a previous injury.

On Wednesday, his coach Addy Ruiter told Daily Monitor that they will have to carefully assess a foot injury that he carried going into the race.

“He is having a little injury under his foot. It was already there in the last few weeks,” Ruiter said.

Cheptegei (yellow top) leads the pack in Budapest on Sunday in the 10000m final. (IAAF Media).

However, the uncertainty turned to confirmation as it emerged that Cheptegei would not compete in the 5000m, leaving Oscar Chelimo as Uganda’s sole representative in the discipline.

Jacob Kiplimo, who was originally part of Uganda’s three-man team for the 5000m withdrew on the eve of the tournament.

“The injury significantly affects his foot, making it impossible for him to continue racing in the remainder of the 2023 championship,” said Njia to URN.

It is worth noting that the reigning 5000m Olympic champion has twice participated in both events at the global stage - the 2016 and 2020 Olympics - winning two golds and one silver.

However, his attempt at Oregon did not go as planned, finishing ninth over the 5000m final at the Hayward Field, making him wary of a repeat.

After that race, Cheptegei picked up a hamstring problem which impacted the rest of his season.

And after the rigours of the 10000m, where he asserted himself on the race from start to finish it would be a huge ask of him to replicate that in both the semifinals and final.

He would be in an inferior position than other favourites like Kenya’s Jacob Krop and Ethiopia’s Yomif Kejelcha who are only competing over the 5000m.