Jacob Kiplimo upset distance king Joshua Cheptegei to win the world cross country title Saturday as top women’s star Letesenbet Gidey dramatically collapsed in sight of the finish line as she looked destined for gold.
Uganda’s Kiplimo clocked 29min 17sec around the 10km-long course at Mount Panorama in Bathurst, northwest of Sydney — better known as one of the world’s most challenging motor racing courses.
He crossed nine seconds clear of Ethiopia’s Berihu Aregawi with fellow Ugandan Cheptegei taking bronze.
“The course was really good, even with lots of wind, it was really intense,” said Kiplimo.
“For me it was really good because there are lots of hills where we train in Uganda. It was not easy but I did my best.”
Cheptegei — the 5,000m and 10,000m world record holder — was defending the title he won four years ago in Aarhus, Denmark when Kiplimo took silver.
But after leading the pack through much of the race he was overhauled by his countryman on the final lap of five and didn’t have the legs to reel him in.
“The course was challenging… and I think I was not so much prepared, but to come here and be on the podium, I can be grateful,” said Cheptegei.
“I am very happy for Jacob, because we were working as a team and with each other to prepare and win the title.”
They faced a gruelling challenge on a hot day, with an uphill start followed by a run through a vineyard and a rapid 350m downhill section before an uphill run at the end of each 2km loop.
In the women’s race over the same distance, Ethiopia’s Gidey — the 5,000m, 10,000m and half marathon world record holder — took the lead on the final lap and pulled away from Kenya’s Beatrice Chebet.
She looked to have timed her race perfectly but began grimacing in the closing stages and collapsed with barely 100m to go, handing world 5,000m silver medallist Chebet the title in 33.48.
Gidey was illegally helped to her feet and stumbled over the finish line, but was disqualified.
Fellow Ethiopian Tsigie Gebreselama came second with Kenya’s Agnes Jebet Ngetich third.
“You know, it is a matter of endurance, believing in yourself and just hard work,” said Chebet.
Kenya won the mixed relay, where two women and two men each run a 2km loop, in 23.14 — seven seconds ahead of Ethiopia to avenge their defeat by the fellow African powerhouse in Denmark. Australia came third.
Kenyan Ishmael Kipkurui claimed the men’s U20 title while Ethiopia’s Senayet Getachew was the women’s champion.