By Javier Silas Omagor
The long wait is almost over!
The World multiple long distance champion, Joshua Cheptegei and the country’s new kid on the block, Oscar Chelimo, are set for the World champs 5,000m finals action.
In the star-studded start list, the duo will run at 4:00am Monday morning, Ugandan time.
To qualify for the finals on Thursday morning, Chelimo, who is the half-brother of world bronze medallist Jacob Kiplimo, sailed through heat 1 in the first position.
“I am a confident man ready to run my lungs out for my country in the finals. I have learnt a lot in the past and now is the time for me to press on,” Chelimo told The Kampala Sun.
In the same heat, fresh from retaining his 10,000m gold medal, Cheptegei crossed the line in fourth position behind archrival Selemon Barega of Ethiopia, Grant Fisher of USA and, of course, compatriot Chelimo.
Despite winning heat 1, many will not rate Chelimo, 20, as one of the top favourites with the likes of Cheptegei, Barega, Fisher and defending champion Edris Muktar.
The stern 15-man squad also features immensely talented Kenyans Nicholas Kipkorir, Daniel Ebenyo, Jacob Krop and the primed Norwegian Jakob Ingebrigtsen.
Ugandans in various towns, regions and denominations have taken to church to pray for the pair’s victory.
In Sebei sub-region where the two runners hail from, Sunday services were specifically designed to seek heavenly favours in the finals.
At Shining Light of God Ministries Church in Kapchorwa, where the two pray from, a special prayer session was set aside in order to dedicate the Ugandan stars to God.
If Cheptegei and Kiplimo finish within the medal bracket, for Uganda it will desirably improve the tiny medal haul for the East African country.
It should be noted that Cheptegei, Uganda’s greatest athlete of all time, is the current world record-holder in the 5,000m distance.