March 26, 2017
KAMPALA, Uganda — The most dramatic moment of the 2017 World Cross Country Champions was when Ugandan Joshua Cheptegei went from leading the men’s race and being less than 800 meters from the world cross title to staggering home to finish in 30th place.
Very little of Cheptegei’s stagger got covered on the broadcast so it’s worth seeing for yourself.
Quick Take: We’ve Never Seen Anything Like Cheptegei’s Collapse
Runners have collapsed at the end of memorable races before, but never before has it been the guy who was about to be world champion before a throng of rabid fans.
While Cheptegei’s collapse was something we had never seen before, so was the Ugandan crowd’s reaction. They were eerily silent as Cheptegei staggered to the finish.
The silence should not be mistaken for indifference. Cheptegei got the recognition of Ugandan president Yoweri Museveni, who sought Cheptegei out afterwards and spoke some words to him. After Museveni departed, the rest of the Ugandan team gathered around asking Cheptegei what the president told him.
At the start of the final lap we said out loud to one another, “Can the crowd really just will someone to be world champion?” Apparently not, but that doesn’t take anything away from Cheptegei’s performance. He extended his body to its absolute limit and secured the team bronze for Uganda. When Geoffrey Kamworor says the pace is “suicidal,” you are going where human beings have not gone before.
Before the race Cheptegei said it was a “do or die case”. He really meant it.
Poor Joshua Cheptegei took 'do or die' almost too literally today. I hope he's ok after his brave effort to finish. pic.twitter.com/0qp9PdU9ds
— Emily Evans (@RunEmilyERun) March 26, 2017