WMTRC: Classic Up and Down Dominance for Uganda
There's a massive medal haul for Uganda on the final day of competition at the World Mountain and Trail Running Championships in Chiang Mai, Thailand.
The Classic Up and Down mountain races brought the curtain down on 3 days of phenomenal racing at the inaugural World Mountain and Trail Running Championships in Chiang Mai, Thailand this morning.
Full results of all races can be found here.
The first races of the day were the Junior Men and Junior women, both competing over a 6.4km, 224m+ course.
Uganda dominated the Junior Men's race, filling the podium and taking 4th place as well for good measure; Leonard Chemutai is World Champion, Caleb Tungwet takes the silver and Denis Kiplangat the bronze, with Silas Rotich 4th.
Finlay Grant came in 5th, helping GB&NI to secure team bronze just one point behind France.
In the Junior Women's race it was a 1-2 for GB&NI as Jessica Bailey lead home Rebecca Flaherty, with Italy's Axelle Vicari in 3rd. Bailey and Flaherty have already had international success this year, taking bronze and silver respectively at the International U18 Mountain Running Cup in Saluzzo, Italy in June.
GB&NI came away clear winners in the team competition as Ellen Weir finished 4th, with Italy comfortably second ahead of France.
The Senior races were 11,2km, 475m+, with a steep, technical loop sandwiched by flat, fast running in and out of Chiang Mai.
Just as they did in the Junior Men's race, Uganda set their stall out early. They were 1st through 4th as the race left the tarmac for the trails with only Everado Moreno of Mexico willing to stick to their heels. The rest of the field were some 30m behind, Friday's Uphill gold and silver medalists Patrick Kipngeno and Philemon Kiriago of Kenya leading the chase.
Eight kilometres later it was Samuel Kibet who emerged first from the trees, holding a 19 second advantage over his teammate Timothy Toroitich and Kipngeno who were locked together in 2nd and 3rd. Kipngeno faught tooth and nail, pulling away from Toroitich and narrowing the gap to the leader, but it wasn't enough.
Kibet swept across the line to take the title, the 6th for a Ugandan Senior man in the last 8 World Championships. Kipngeno was 10 seconds behind, becoming the first double medalist in the new expanded Championship format. Toroitich held on for bronze ahead of his teammates Leonard Chemonges and Eliud Cherop in 4th and 5th. Spain's Andreu Blanes came agonisingly close to breaking the African monpoly on the top 5, giving up the chase on Cherop just metres from the line.
Athletes flooded in, with desperate sprint finishes the norm well beyond the podium positions. The depth was remarkable, with the first 22 all coming in within ten percent of Kibet's winning time.
Uganda were, obviously, runaway winners in the team competition. Spain took silver with Blanes 6th, Oriol Cardona 8th and Alejandro Garcia 15th, with Italy just a single point behind; Alberto Vender 7th, Cesare Maestri 9th and Xavier Chevrier 14th.
The theme of the day continued in the final race of the Championship; the entire Ugandan team of Rispa Cherop, Rebecca Cheptegei and Annet Chelangat Chemengenich pushed the pace from the gun with only Saturday's Uphill World Champion Allie McLaughlin able to hang on.
With the precedent of the Junior and Senior Men's races it was just a question of which of the Ugandan women would take the title. Rebecca Cheptegei flew into the race's final kilometre with a 20 second gap over her teammate Annet Chelangat Chemengich. Cheptegei looked as smooth on the run in as she had on the run out and was jubilant as she tore across the finish line, flag in hand, to become the 2nd Ugandan woman to win a mountain running World Championship.
Annet Chelangat Chemengich was no less ecstatic in 2nd and the pair had time pose for the cameras before McLaughlin came in to take bronze, the second medal in a remarkable weekend for the American.
Romania's Monica Florea, bleeding from both knees, came in 4th, just as she did on Friday's Uphill. She may be frustrated to have missed out on a medal but Florea has confirmed herself as one of the strongest, most consistent performers in mountain running. So too has GB&NI's Scout Adkin, who finished just a few seconds further back in 5th.
With Rispa Cherop unable to finish, the door was open for someone else to claim the team title. That someone else was Switzerland, adding to the two sets of team medals that they took in the Uphill race on Friday; Judith Wyder 6th, Maude Mathys 13th and Rea Iseli 15th.
Not far behind were GB&NI, with Adkin followed by Holly page in 8th and Naomi Lang in 25th. U.S.A. put the finishing touch to a tremendous championship with bronze, Rachel Tomajczyk in 19th and Corey Dowe in 23rd backing up McLaughlin's 3rd.
LOOKING FORWARD TO INNSBRUCK-STUBAI
It's been 3 days of sensational off-road running in Chiang Mai, with athletes from 6 continents, medals won by 13 different countries and the crowning of 10 individual World Champions. But this is only the beginning and already thoughts turn to the future! Next year the championship heads to Europe and the spectacular trails of the Austrian Alps.
The 2023 World Mountain and Trail Running Championships will take place in Innsbruck-Stubai, Austria from 6th-10th of June! We'll see you there.
Photos by Marco Gulberti, see more here.