At the IAAF World Cross Country Championships in Kampala last March, Joshua Cheptegei was the talking point.
But for all the wrong reasons after his infamous collapse from gold medal prospect to an also-ran, after a tactical blunder that almost destroyed his running career.
Leading by miles midway the race, Cheptegei seems to have broken lose from Kenya’s defending champion Geoffrey Kamworor before he disintegrated and faded away so badly that Kenyan fans joked that he was “running backwards” or “running in italics.”
But the 2014 world junior 10,000 metres champion took it in his stride and bounced back in spectacular fashion to win the silver medal in Friday’s 10,000 metres final won by the unbeatable Briton Mo Farah.
It’s been a tough journey from villain to hero for Cheptegei who thanks his family and fans for standing by him after the tactical blunder at the Kololo Independence Grounds.
“What happened in March at home was unfortunate and I overcame that after getting support from my family and the sports fraternity,” Cheptegei told Nation Sport after Friday night’s epic race in which Kenya’s Paul Tanui won the bronze.
“When I met people, they could ask me what happened which made me feel so bad,” he said.
He decided to train in Kapchorwa on the foothills of Mt Elgon in Uganda which he said it gave him perfect conditions as he prepared for Friday’s race.
“I did my training in Kapchorwa, Uganda and didn’t go to Kaptagat in Kenya because I saw the conditions are almost the same. This is the result and I’m very much happy because my star has started shining,” he said.
He is planning to wear Mo’s shoes after he said he was retiring from the track and join the road races.
“Every athlete has his own time because we had Haile Gebrselassie followed by Kenenisa Bekele and now Mo Farah is retiring. I’m still young and I think I can fit in very well,” said the athlete.
He is happy to have the silver medal for his country and he dedicates it to his family back in Uganda.
He is now happy that he will meet an expectant crowd who will be congratulating him for the good work he has done in London.
He is still not sure if he will participate in the 5,000m after getting some injuries on his feet during the race.