World 3000m record not untouchable, says Cheptegei
Joshua Cheptegei has Daniel Komen’s 3000m world record firmly in his sights at the 60th edition of the Golden Spike in Ostrava, a World Athletics Continental Tour Gold meeting, on Wednesday.
The video of that astonishing run, in which Komen clocked 7:20.67 in Rieti, Italy in September 1996, is one the 24-year-old Ugandan knows well.
“Ever since I started running, I’ve been watching it three or four times (a year), and this year I’ve been watching it five times,” said Cheptegei at the press conference on Tuesday. “I still really can’t believe it. What he did was really special and most of the big icons in the sport, the likes of Kenenisa (Bekele), (Hicham) El Guerrouj, Haile (Gebrselassie) tried it, but it was untouchable and that shows you how special the record is.”
The key question for Cheptegei, however, is whether he also sees it that way?
“I believe it’s not untouchable,” he said.
The Ugandan said he was “satisfied” with his fitness ahead of tomorrow evening’s attempt, in which he will be paced by Australia’s Stewart McSweyn.
“I’m hopeful the weather is okay, it should be (possible to break) the Ugandan record, which is 7:26, and of course the final one is the world record – 7:20 is not easy, it’s one of the hardest records and that’s why it’s not been broken for the past 25 years, but I’ll run fast as long as my legs will carry me.”
Cheptegei believes the pandemic was a blessing in disguise for his performances last year, allowing as it did a period of uninterrupted training and the freedom to chase world records without having to worry about preparing for championships. He set the 5000m world record of 12:35.36 in Monaco in August before breaking another of Bekele’s records in Valencia in October, clocking 26:11.00 for 10,000m.
If he adds the 3000m record he will become just the third man in history – after Paavo Nurmi and Henry Rono – to hold all three world records at once, but it will be a tough ask, given no other athlete besides Komen has ever broken 7:23.
Another world record-holder, Mondo Duplantis, will compete in Ostrava for the first time on Wednesday and the pole vault kingpin admits there’s a question mark lingering over his likely performance.
“I did do a home meet at (Louisiana State University) but it was more of a last-second training meet, it wasn’t part of my schedule,” he said. “Now I’ve got to step it up a bit and go after the big stuff. It’s our opening meet, it’s nerve-wracking, it’s exciting, and I think we don’t know what to expect. We’re just going to out there and try to jump high.”
Duplantis cleared 5.90m in that first outdoor competition of the year but he has since been over six metres in training.
“I feel good, training is good but it’s hard to tell until we have a meet,” he said. “It’s hard to compare what I do in training to a meet. It’s a whole different mentality when it comes to a competition but the things I’m doing in training now are better than I’ve ever been. This is my first meet from a full approach so there should be a little bit of rust.”
Duplantis welcomed the news that 1500 fans will be allowed into the stadium on Wednesday evening. “You don’t realise how lame it is when you go from these crazy meets with people watching you to no one watching you,” he said. “I’ve always liked the pressure and I’ve always liked the spotlight.”
Sam Kendricks, the reigning world champion, will take on his good friend in Ostrava and he’s confident it can help him surpass his current best this year of 5.86m.