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Feature25 Mar 2024

Defending champion Kiplimo is aiming for the top again in Belgrade


Jacob Kiplimo wins the 2023 world cross-country title

The countdown continues to the World Athletics Cross Country Championships in Belgrade, which is scheduled for 30 March 2024 in Friendship Park, at the confluence of the Sava and Danube rivers. The list of competitors for the 45th edition of the global event is led by none other than defending senior men’s champion and world half marathon record-holder Jacob Kiplimo.

The Ugandan, born in November 2000, is a member of the Sebei people, and he grew up in Bukwo on Mount Elgon, living at high altitude.

He made history in 2016 when – at the age of 15 – he became Uganda’s youngest Olympian, contesting the 5000m at the Rio Games. One year later, on home soil in Kampala, he won the U20 title at the World Cross Country Championships.

In 2020, his first year as a senior, he won the world half marathon title in Gdynia. One year later, he set a world record for that distance, clocking 57:31 in Lisbon – a mark that still stands today.

A world and Olympic bronze medallist over 10,000m, Kiplimo won the 5000m and 10,000m double at the 2022 Commonwealth Games. He holds the Ugandan 3000m record at 7:26.64, while his PBs of 12:41.73 for 5000m and 26:33.93 for 10,000m rank him in the top 10 on the world all-time lists.

Kiplimo earned his first senior global title when winning the senior men’s race at the 2023 World Cross Country Championships in Bathurst. He hopes another gold medal in Belgrade will act as the perfect springboard towards further success at the Paris 2024 Olympic Games.


How satisfied are you with your preparations for 2024?

“My preparations are going well. I am in Kapchorwa, where I’m training with my teammates. There’s a group of about 10-12 of us staying together at our new training camp.”


What are your main competitive plans for 2024?

“The World Cross Country Championships in Belgrade and the Olympic Games in Paris.”


When you won the world U20 cross-country title at the age of 16, what were your dreams back then, and who helped you achieve your goals?

“My main dream at that age was to go to Europe to compete. After that, I wanted to become a champion. The first people who helped me were coaches Alex Malena and Saket Benat when I was 15 years old. Robert Chemonges also helped during that early stage of my career. After that, Giuseppe Giambrone with Federico and Gabriele Rosa gave me the opportunity to grow in Italy. Now Federico and the Rosa management agency are taking care of the next level of my career, helping to develop not only me but also my training group which is very important to me, as well as the facilities at our new training camp in Kapchorwa.”


What goes through your head when things aren't going so well, and how do you turn it around?

“When I’m struggling with an injury, my head starts to get stressed. So I’ll try to seek out advice from other people – that usually gives me a lot of motivation to get over the injury.”


Who is your biggest rival?

“My biggest sporting rival is my compatriot and national team member Joshua Cheptegei.”


When and why did you decide to choose running?

“When I was young, I started running at school because it's a tradition in my district. I started running to become a champion.”


How does it feel to be on top of the world in a global sport like athletics? What does your success mean for the young athletes in your country?

“I enjoy being a world-class athlete and I'm happy when people talk about me. I like being a role model for young Ugandan athletes, like Stephen Kiprotich (2012 Olympic marathon champion) was for me. It's good for my people and my country.”


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