By Javier Silas Omagor
Long–distance running best rivalry of our times will be renewed in Eugene, Oregon, USA over the weekend.
All is set for the rivalry architects, Jacob Kiplimo, Joshua Cheptegei (both Ugandans) and Ethiopian Selemon Barega, to rekindle their battle.
There are so many good athletes in long distance right now in the world but the trio is simply in their own planet.
Cheptegei is the 10000 metres world record holder and defending champion, Barega is Olympics 10000 metres champion while Kiplimo is the world half-marathon record holder.
Now, imagine all of them will be in the same race battling for the same ultimate podium positions.
This time, the battle field will be the World Athletics Championships with the first piece of major clash slated for Saturday 16, July, beginning with 10000m.
Last year, Barega dramatically out-competed Cheptegei and Kiplimo to clinch the 10,000 metres at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
The Ugandan pair had to settle for a silver (Cheptegei) and bronze (Kiplimo) despite dominating the early proceedings of the race.
Cheptegei, 25 on the other hand had frustrated Barega days later when he captain beat the 22 – year old to gold in Eugene Diamond League.
The Ugandan also kept Barega quiet when he ran to win the 10,000m gold at World Athletics Championships (Doha 2019) leaving the 22 year old upset.
As if that was not enough, Cheptegei also broke the race’s world record.
“Am not getting carried away by emotions or comparisons from elsewhere, I am a top athlete and reigning champion here so I will aim at my best not the rest,” Cheptegei, tactically, played down the significance of the rivalry.
Speaking on Saturday, Cheptegei said now was the time to write the wrongs in Oregon.
By that, the Uganda’s greatest athlete of all time was refering to his loss to Barega in Tokyo, Japan, Olympics.
However, Barega, 22 has been dominant in most of the international private races he has been invited or entered to take part in including the very latest Paris Diamond League.
This means that the Olympic gold medallist in 10k heads to Oregon with a bag full of tactics, confidence and credentials to silence his opponents.
Despite losing a few last competitive meetings with Barega and Cheptegei, Kiplimo has since been busy benefiting from first class training which culminated in world record in half marathon (Lisbon) and a course record in RAK, Dubai.
The 22 year old comes into this conversation as an inductee or underdog if you like but one capable of disarming any great rival to claim glory.
“I admire them (Barega and Cheptegei) because they are top professionals but in Oregon it will an opportunity to challenge them,” Kiplimo, 22 vowed.
The three men are traveling to America with dreams and expectations to rule the track; surely will they dominate but never rule out a possibility of a surprise emerging from elsewhere.