World record holder Joshua Cheptegei took the gold in the gruelling men’s 5000m final at the Tokyo Olympic Stadium, finishing ahead of Mohammed Ahmed of Canada, who took the silver, and Paul Chelimo of the United States who scooped the bronze.
Cheptegei, with a time of 12 minutes, 58.15, became the first Ugandan to win the event as he bagged the Olympic gold that has eluded him for so long.
“It’s really a great moment,” the Ugandan hero said after the race. “I made a small mistake and I was regretting [having] to become a silver medallist. I came here to become an Olympic champion and my dream has been fulfilled today in a beautiful evening.”
“I knew a lot of guys were strong so I had to take them through the lap and whoever was the strongest in the mind [would win],” the Olympic champions and 5000m world record holder added. “I knew I was strong in the mind because I broke a couple of world records.”
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Jacob Kiplimo of Uganda was in front of the pack early, but his countryman Cheptegei took over the front spot midway through the race and didn’t let go of it until a six-man pack pushed ahead of the rest to set-up the final push. Cheptegei sealed the gold with a ferocious charge over the last section, with Ahmed nipping second.
“I went through a lot of emotions and tried to pick myself up,” said Canada’s silver-winner Ahmed. “I felt I had a chance, and I did have a chance.”
More hardware for USA’s Chelimo
The American Chelimo, with his second medal in as many Games, nearly fell at the line to secure bronze in front of Kipkorir Kimeli of Kenya.
“I’m very excited,” said Chelimo who adds the Tokyo bronze to his silver from Rio in 2016. “It’s been a tough year and I have come out and run some pretty good times. It’s amazing. I always believe in one thing – go hard or suffer for the rest of your life.”
“I knew it was going to be tough, that there was going to be a lot of bumping” the Kenyan-born American went on. “That’s part of the game and I tried to run a really smart race to get into the medals.”
The Tokyo 2020 (in 2021) Athletics competition continues today with the women’s 400 and 1500m finals as well as the women’s and men’s 4x100m relay finals.