Commonwealth champ Cheptegei to pitch camp in Portugal, eyeing world cross gold

Source: Xinhua| 2019-03-22 20:09:38|Editor: Li Xia
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NAIROBI, March 22 (Xinhua) -- Commonwealth Games champion Joshua Cheptegei has shifted his training base from Mt. Elgon to Portugal ahead of his title hunt at this year's World Cross Country Championships that will be held on March 30 in Aarhus, Denmark.

Due to injury concerns, Cheptegei, who has been pitching in Kenya, said 2019 is critical in his career development as he seeks gold in the senior men's race and exorcises the Kenyan ghost which saw him struggle on home soil during the 2017 World Cross in his native Uganda.

"I am a kind of person who loathes defeats. If I lose it pains a lot so I strive on my goals and ambitions and I have set the bar high with expectations. That is why I have decided to go to Portugal to train and look for more goal in 2019," Cheptegei told Xinhua on Friday.

A year ago, Cheptegei injury concerns mounted after he twisted his left foot during a training session and this put additional pressure on his right knee. It further hampered his build up to the Commonwealth Games. But, revealing an emphatic indication of his ability, Cheptegei delivered in Australia, becoming only the second man in history to complete the men's 5,000m and 10,000m double at a Commonwealth Games after his compatriot Moses Kipsiro.

"It starts with good training, good preparation and having a positive mentality," he added.

"In Portugal the expectation is to build on my career and focus on 2019. When in camp you visualize what you want. To travel this many miles from home is no mean task. It is about delivering the medals," he added.

Cheptegei had high expectations in his debut world cross country in Guiyang, China back in 2015, but he endured a hard time.

"As a junior athlete in Guiyang, China it was tough introduction for me. In the last edition in Kampala in 2017, it was not good either. So I have to think differently and have a different strategy as I hope to do well in Denmark," he said.

Running in Aarhus will be hard for every athlete with the course as challenging as it can be. There will be hills to climb, cold windy condition to brave and muddy terrain, which Cheptegei says only the tough will sail through.

"The course is really demanding and you must be strong. It is not like the previous cross country because it is not about flat running, but all the other hurdles together. Cross country is a tough competition and you can't afford to underestimate anyone. So I am open to challenge not only from Kenya team, but Ethiopian and other runners," he added.