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Deji’s Doodles: Kiplimo and Chebet dominate Cross Country Championships, Thomas gets off on a strong foot in Texas, while Ashe returns with a bang

The outdoor track season is finally in full swing, and we had a couple of meetings over the weekend to keep us engaged. The World Cross Country championships were the peak of the bunch in Belgrade as Ugandan distance sensation Jacob Kiplimo made it back-to-back wins. At the same time, Kenya’s Beatrice Chebet successfully defended her senior women’s title. Elsewhere, we had the likes of Dina Asher-Smith, Rhasidat Adeleke, Lanae-Tava Thomas, and Julien Alfred combine to clock a 1:27.05 4x200m at the Texas Relays. Let’s relive some of the top moments.

 

Jacob Kiplimo is taking advantage of a potential decline of Joshua Cheptegei as he serves a classic in Belgrade.

Jacob Kiplimo takes second World XC title, by Randy Miyazaki for Track and Field photo magazine.

 

The talented runner has shown remarkable growth since bursting into the limelight as a burgeoning 16-year-old. While he was still in the early stages of development, his country already boasted a distance running star in Joshua Cheptegei. Consequently, there wasn’t much pressure placed on Kiplimo to perform immediately.

Kiplimo started competing internationally when he was 15 years old, and by the time he was twenty, he had represented his country at the Olympics, world championships, and the Commonwealth Games. Now at 23, he is a fully formed man, and his latest cross-country win in Serbia takes him to the top of the world as the absolute best in distance running.

 

In the central European city, Kiplimo executed the same game plan that led to his victory in the previous World XC championship 13 months ago, and it proved to be flawless once again. Despite several early surges and breakaway attempts during the race, Kiplimo remained patient and confident in his fitness. With less than a mile remaining, he made his move, leaving Berihu Aregawi of Ethiopia, who boasts a 5k personal best of 12:40, and Benson Kiplangat, the 2021 world U20 5k champion from Kenya, to compete for the silver.

The cross-country discipline presents a unique challenge, demanding readiness for anything – tackling hills in Aarhus, contending with the wind in Bathurst, or enduring heat in Serbia, even in March. Kiplimo embraces this dynamic aspect of the sport, demonstrating his adaptability and resilience in diverse conditions. Meanwhile, his teammate, Cheptegei, the 2019 champion, didn’t get a medal for himself in Belgrade. Perhaps this is a sign that it is the beginning of the end for him.

He now sits alongside Kenenisa Bekele, Geoffrey Kamworor, and Paul Tergat as back-to-back senior men’s title winners. Having missed last year’s world championships due to an acute injury on his hamstring, he is undoubtedly in line to become a double Olympic champion over the 5000m and 10000m.

Beatrice Chebet’s big win in Belgrade might serve as a springboard to the ultimate goal in Paris  

 

Although Beatrice Chebet’s win at the World Cross Country Championships last Year was somewhat fortuitous, the Kenyan made sure she stamped her authority at this year’s race. No doubt, the pressure was there, considering she had a slew of country women looking to dethrone her, but her resilience along the tough course proved crucial when it mattered the most.

 

Understanding the unpredictable nature of cross country, Chebet prepared herself for any challenge. Fortunately, the race dynamics played to her strengths, with five women remaining in contention on the final lap. In such a scenario, Chebet emerged as the favorite, boasting an impressive 5k personal best of 14:05 and two 5k medals on the track.

Beatrice Chebet takes the second title, WXC, Belgrade, Serbia, 2024, photo by Randy Miyazaki, for Track and Field photo Magazine

After the race, she was questioned about her performance in hot weather conditions; Chebet revealed that while she doesn’t excel in extreme heat, she performs well in warm temperatures. This nuanced understanding may have contributed to her success, as she regarded the day’s conditions as merely “warm” rather than “hot.”

With her victory at the 2024 World XC Championships, Chebet has now secured three global titles in the span of 14 months – an impressive feat. Looking ahead, the question arises: can she translate her success in cross-country and road racing to the track and claim an Olympic title? After securing silver and bronze in the 5,000 meters at the last two World Championships, Chebet’s potential for Olympic glory on the track remains a tantalizing prospect.

Gabby Thomas might give Shericka Jackson a run for her money in Paris.

It might feel a tad early, but Gabby Thomas is proving to be a get many people seem to ignore. All through last year, the talk has been about how World Champion Shericka Jackson was going to break the women’s 200m world record. And to be fair, she did have a tilt at it in various meets and came within whiskers at the world championships in Budapest.

One sprinter who potentially could give Jackson a run for her money at the Paris Olympics, and you can’t look further than Thomas. A world champion, Thomas showcased her versatility at the Texas Relays, where she dominated the 100m/200m. While her primary focus was on the 200m ahead of the rest of the season, she delivered an impressive performance in the 100m, clinching victory with a swift time of 10.88s. All the talk might be about Sha’ Carri Richardson in the US, but Thomas is improving.

Gabby Thomas, photo by Kevin Morris

This win in Texas proved that she was the number two in the world in the half-lap. With a stunning time of 22.08s, she set a new meet record and established herself as the world leader. It was a solid race, a mixture of fierce and relentless running and beautiful execution.

As the Olympic Games in Paris draws near, Thomas surely is a genuine threat to upset the competition, including established contenders like Jackson. With consistency, she has the potential to make a significant impact on the track and secure her place among the elite athletes vying for Olympic glory.

Favour Ashe shines at the Florida Relays.

 

At the Florida Relays, Favour Ashe was the fastest athlete over the 100m, and he didn’t look to break much of a sweat as he cruised to a world lead of 9.99s. Since the Nigerian came onto the scene with his fine indoor season in 2022, he has struggled to find consistency. Although injury has played its part in that, you get the feeling he could be running much faster at this stage.

Favour Ashe, 2022 African Athletics Championships, photo by Deji Ogeyingbo

9.99s is an Olympic qualification time for Ashe, and it’s the kind of world lead that wouldn’t last a week. However, it puts the Nigerian in a good state to build on his performance in the next few months. He falsely started in Budapest last year, and he needs to be in top shape if he is to challenge the top order in Paris.

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