2019 Doha 10,000m world champion Joshua Chetegei of Uganda and Ethiopia’s Letesenbet Gidey went into new territory on Wednesday, October 7, 2020, in the Spanish city of Valencia had never seen an outdoor world record on the track before but within the space of 50 minutes, it witnessed not one but two.
Cheptegei crossed the line at a near-empty Turia stadium in a stunning 26 minutes 11.02 seconds to beat the time of 26:17:53 set in 2005 by Ethiopian Kenenisa Bekele by over six seconds.
The achievement capped an outstanding 12 months for Cheptegei, 24, who won the gold medal in the 10,000 at last year’s World Championships in Doha, and in August took Bekele’s 5,000m record at the Diamond League meeting in Monaco.
Gidey easily beat the previous 5000m record of 14:11.15 set by her compatriot and idol Tirunesh Dibaba which had stood since 2008.
The 22-year-old Ethiopian run of 14:06.62 to take more than four seconds off the previous mark.
Just 54 days after he had taken Kenenisa Bekele’s 5000m world record at the Wanda Diamond League meeting in Monaco, he removed the last remaining evidence of the phenomenal Ethiopian at the top of distance running’s all-time lists by taking 6.53 seconds from his 2005 mark of 26:17.53.
Having returned to his Ugandan training base in Kapchorwa immediately after his Monaco outing, Cheptegei flew into Valencia on Sunday after a sustained period of more than six weeks training, saying on his arrival that it was possibly his best period of preparation for a race in his career.
Gidey became the third successive Ethiopian to hold the 5000m world record following Meseret Defar and Tirunesh Dibaba as a prelude to Cheptegei’s feat.
It’s a little more than five years since Gidey made her first international breakthrough, winning the U20 race at the 2015 World Cross Country Championships in Guiyang. She successfully defended that title two years later, becoming just the fourth woman in history to win back-to-back world U20 cross-country titles.
Later that year, she clocked 14:33.32 for 5000m, moving to second on the world U20 all-time list and went on to finish 11th at the World Championships in London. Her progress has continued in recent years and she clocked a 5000m PB of 14:23.14 in Rabat in 2018 and an outdoor African 3000m record of 8:20.27 in 2019.
Her medal collection has expanded too. Gidey earned bronze at last year’s World Cross Country Championships in Aarhus and went one better at the World Championships in Doha, taking silver in the 10,000m behind Sifan Hassan.
One of her biggest dreams, though, was to break a world record.