Uganda’s CommonWealth Games’ Gold Medalist: Who is Joshua Cheptegei?

Ugandan long distance runner Joshua Kiprui Cheptegei made headlines on Sunday April 8th after he won a gold medal in the Common Wealth games held in Gold Coast, Australia.

Cheptegei emerged the first in the men’s 5,000 metre race, beating Canada’s Mohammed Ahmed and Kenya’s Pingua Zakayo who came second and third respectively.

Born in the Eastern Uganda village of Kapsewui in Kapchorwa District, on September 12th 1996, Cheptegei rose to fame on the international scene at the age of 18 when he won gold in the World Junior Championships held in Eugene, United States of America.

He came first in the men’s 10,000m race and 4th in the men’s 5,000m race.

In the same year, the youngster emerged the first at the World University Cross Country in Entebbe, Uganda from where he met his Dutch manager Jurrie van der Velden.

Having tasted greatness, the teenage star went ahead to win gold in the Africa Junior Championships in 2015 after coming first in the men’s 10,000m race.

He also participated in the World Junior Championships in Beijing China in the same year but came 9th.

Entrance to the Senior Level.

Cheptegei’s entrance to the top of his sport at senior level took a bit of time.

In 2015, he moved to Kaptagat, Kenya, to train with the best, running daily with Kamworor and other seniors like Eliud Kipchoge.

But while his running went from strength to strength, he missed his family and his home too much to ever truly stick it out.

He would later return to Uganda, with his manager working to build a group around him under the guidance of Dutch coach Addy Ruiter in late 2015.

Cheptegei made his senior race debut in 2016 at the Olympic games in Rio De Janero where he represented Uganda in men’s 5,000m and 10,000m races. He came 8th and 6th respectively.

Humiliation at IAAF World Cross Country Championships

The young pulser was hit by an unforgettable nightmare when he came 30th in the IAAF World Cross Country Championships held in Kampala in March 2017.

He reportedly suffered a stitch during the race where he was in the lead, denying him a chance to the gold medal and paving way for Kenya’s Geoffrey Kamworor.

He however dragged himself over the line to finish 30th in the senior men’s race at the Kololo Independence grounds.

This incident sparked criticism for Cheptegei with Ugandans on social media making provocative memes of him but none of this could sway him from his dream of becoming an international star.

“It took me some weeks to get over,” Cheptegei was quoted as having said.

“When I met people they felt sorry for me, but when they asked me I would feel bad because they made me remember what happened. I had to just stay at home, not go around because I didn’t want to meet people. My wife was there, my family, my manager, and they were encouraging me, saying: ‘you can make it.’”

Rise to the top

Despite the hate speech and the down moments he went through after the IAAF World Cross Country, Cheptegei never gave up on his dream of remaining a star.

He came back to prove his critics wrong in August 2017 when he won silver at the IAAF World Championships in London. He came second after Mo Farah.

Cheptegei celebrates his win on Sunday morning. (Photo by AFP)

Cheptegei’s gold medal won on Sunday is a loud evidence to pulsers to not give up on their dreams because of a few setbacks that come in their way.

His persistence and hard work has now steered him to greater heights, earning international recognition and the president’s gratitude for representing Uganda.

“Congratulations to Joshua Cheptegei for winning Gold in the Men’s 5,000m at the ongoing Commonwealth Games in Australia. Your country is proud of you,” President Museveni said.