Uganda’s Jacob Kiplimo produced a performance of a lifetime to win gold in the men’s U20 race at the IAAF World Cross Country Championships Kampala 2017, the country’s first ever gold medal at a World Cross.
The world U20 10,000m bronze medallist last year, Kiplimo came into the race as the host country’s best chance of an individual medal following his brilliant performance which saw him win the Ugandan Cross Country Championships on this same course.
Kiplimo covered the 8km course in 22:40, ending the Kenyan and Ethiopian dominance in the event to win the first global title of his career.
From the gun, Eritrean Yemane Haileselassie produced a fast start, working himself to the head of the leading pack which was composed of Ugandan Victor Kiplangat, Kenyans Wesley Ledama, Edwin Kiplangat Bett and Amos Kirui and Ethiopian Solomon Berihu with Kiplimo following suit.
At the end of the first lap, Haileselassie, the Eritrean record-holder in the steeplechase and 2016 world U20 silver medallist in the event, was at the front of a tightly wound 10-man pack and he led through the first lap alongside Berihu and the entire Kenyan squad.
On the second lap, Kenyan Richard Yator Kimunyan, the world U18 3000m champion, overtook the pack briefly, taking turns up front with Kiplimo and Ledama. Berihu and Kirui also remained in contact.
Soon after, Kiplimo took command.
Unconcerned about the hot conditions at the Kololo Grounds, and backed by his vociferous home fans, Kiplimo broke away from Kirui and Kiplangat going into the final lap, sending the crowd into a further frenzy.
As he powered on, Amdework Walelegn, who finished fourth in the 10,000m at last year’s World U20 Championships, tried to save the day for Ethiopia, pushing hard to close the gap. He moved past Kirui and Kiplangat with Kiplimo his next target, but the Ugandan continued to hold his advantage.
Kiplimo went on to cross the finish line in 22:40 with Walelegn three seconds behind to bag silver. Kimunyan joined the podium finishers nine seconds further back.
Upon crossing the finish line, Kiplimo, who was congratulated by Uganda's President Yoweri Kaguta Museveni, said: “Yes yes yes, I always thought I could win. It was a very good race. When I decided to break away going into the last lap, I knew I was going to win.”
“I am happy but not satisfied with second spot," said Walelegn. "The crowd made it very difficult for me to run according to my plan.”
Walelegn did however lead Ethiopia to the team title with 17 points, their second since 2013. Kenya was one point behind to take team silver. Eritrea was a distant third with 55, just one point better than Uganda, who was fourth.
Bonnie Mugabe for the IAAF