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Kamworor surrenders title to Ugandan star

ATHLETICS By Dennis Okeyo and IAAF | March 31st 2019 | 3 min read
Uganda's Joshua Cheptegei poses with the winners' medal after winning the men's race with second-placed Jacob Kiplimo and third-placed Kenya's Geoffrey Kamworor. [Reuters]

Geoffrey Kamworor failed to reclaim his title, losing the battle to Joshua Cheptegei of Uganda in the 10km senior men race at the IAAF World Cross Country Championships Aarhus, Denmark yesterday.

 Two years ago, he faded from first to 30th at the World Cross Country in Kampala but he held off his compatriot Jacob Kiplimo to the win the 2019 world title. Kamworor, the 2015 and 2017 winner, faded to third

The last time a nation other than Kenya or Ethiopia won the men’s team title at world cross country was back in 1980 when England won.

Yesterday in Aarhus was atonement day as Cheptegei dashed clear of precocious teammate Kiplimo and defending champion Kamworor to take the world title by 25 metres in 31:40 over the 10,240m course.

It got better and better for Cheptegei. With Kiplimo second, Thomas Ayeko seventh and Joseph Ayeko tenth, Uganda wrapped up the teams race as well. That was another first, the first time Uganda has taken either a senior or junior gold medal. At senior level, the previous best was bronze medals in Mombasa in 2007 and Kampala last time.

Almost from the outset, however, it was Kiplimo who was the aggressor. He pushed the pace up the roof in the second lap and soon after they entered the third lap he had pulled Cheptegei, Kamworor and Eritrea’s Aron Kifle clear.

While Rhonex Kipruto and Selemon Barega had tried to bridge that gap, by the half-way mark of the race it was clear there were only four who could win. They were down to three in the fourth lap as Kifle dropped off but the Eritrean athlete was still well clear of the chasing pack and held that place all the way to the line, improving one position on his Kampala race.

Kamworor had raced conservatively, always shadowing every move but rarely leading himself. As the leaders entered the fourth lap, however, he appeared to be trying to assert his authority.

As the leaders took the climb up the roof for the second-last time, however, Kiplimo forged a break and it looked as if he might become the youngest-ever winner of the senior race (and the only one still eligible to have run the U20 championship). This was no surprise, given a form line which has seen him go undefeated in nine races since July last year, including seven major cross-country victories.

By accident or design, however, this proved to be the opening feint of a classic one-two punch.

Kamworor chased hard on the uphill start of the final lap and on the following downhill he had closed the gap. Unfortunately for him, he had pulled Cheptegei up with him.

Cheptegei and Kiplimo dashed clear with Kamworor dropping back first five metres, then 10. As the gap continued to grow he clearly could not win a third straight world cross-country title.

Kiplimo’s last card would prove to be the climb up the roof. He had been stronger than Cheptegei on each of the previous four laps, but this time it was his more experienced teammate who broke clear.

It was a five-metre lead at the top of the climb and 10 by the time they had completed the turn and commenced the downhill.

Cheptegei was not to be beaten this time. A former winner of the world U20 10,000m title, his record at senior level has brought two Olympic top-8 finishes and the IAAF World Championships.

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