JOSHUA CHEPTEGEI did everything right. Really, so did Grant Fisher.
The Ugandan ascended to the top of the 10,000 podium again. The American just missed — again.
In a race whose finish more closely resembled a 400-meter dash, Cheptegei led a 1-3 result for his East African nation.
He reclaimed the gold in 27:27.43 thanks to a closing lap of 53.39. Kenya’s Stanley Waithaka (53.77) took silver in 27:27.90, despite tripping and falling in the race’s first 200m.
Second Ugandan Jacob Kiplimo (53.60) won bronze in 27:27.97, holding off Fisher, who closed in 53.87 for 27:28.14.
Fisher, 5th at the Olympics, came in as the world leader and left even more convinced he belonged on this stage. He equaled Galen Rupp’s 4th from ’13 as best ever by an American at the Worlds.
Fisher, 25, said he has “learned to be better positioned over the last lap” and had mixed emotions. “I’ll take this performance as a motivation. When you get so close to these tough guys. Not so long ago, I looked up to them. I thought they were on a different level than me. To be out there, fighting out with them for top 4 and 5, the confidence definitely builds. I’ll be back in the  and hopefully mix it up again.”
After a slowish first half of 14:01.33 by favored Selemon Barega the lead pack whittled to 9 — separated by a half-second — before the last lap: Berihu Aregawi, Cheptegei, Waithaka, Barega, Fisher, Kiplimo, Moh Ahmed, Daniel Mateiko.
Cheptegei seized the lead into the backstretch, and held off a fast-closing horde.
Ethiopia’s 22-year-old Barega, reigning Olympic champion, had won March’s World Indoor gold in the 3000. He dropped to 5th and his 21-year-old countryman, Aregawi, to 7th.
Ahmed, a Canadian who trains with Fisher on the Bowerman TC, finished 6th in 27:30.27. The other Americans, Joe Klecker (27:38.73) and Sean McGorty (27:46.30), were 9th and 12th.
Evidence of how the pace accelerated is reflected in second 5Ks for Cheptegei (13:26.03), Waithaka (13:26.05), Kiplimo (13:25.54), Fisher (13:25.83), Barega (13:27.06) and Ahmed (13:27.49).
Cheptegei, 25, added to what was already a full résumé: 5000 gold and 10,000 silver at the ’21 Olympics; WRs at 5000 and 10,000 in ’20; world titles in cross country and 10K in ’19.
The others with multiple world titles in the 10K: Haile Gebrselassie (4), Kenenisa Bekele (4), Mo Farah (3).
It was a full-circle moment for Cheptegei, who won gold in the ’14 Junior worlds at Hayward Field. The early afternoon heat made conditions “kind of challenging,” he conceded. “But nevertheless, I prepared myself for something special. I knew that if I get into the last fight, I can control it and I could speed it up. I was able to get stronger and keep it faster and faster.
“It was very emotional for me to come back to the USA, where I started my international career in 2014. Now, I want to continue my dominance in the long distance running, and I hope I will manage it.”
MEN’S 10,000 RESULTS
(temperature 70F/21C; humidity 59%)
1. Joshua Cheptegei (Uga) 27:27.43
2. Stanley Waithaka (Ken) 27:27.90
3. Jacob Kiplimo (Uga) 27:27.97
4. Grant Fisher (US) 27:28.14
5. Selemon Barega (Eth) 27:28.39
6. Moh Ahmed (Can) 27:30.27
7. Berihu Aregawi (Eth) 27:31.00
8. Daniel Mateiko (Ken) 27:33.57
9. Joe Klecker (US) 27:38.73
10. Isaac Kimeli (Bel) 27:43.50; 11. Jimmy Gressier (Fra) 27:44.55; 12. Sean McGorty (US) 27:46.30 (14:02.57/13:43.73); 13. Carlos Mayo (Spa) 27:50.61; 14. Tadese Worku (Eth) 27:51.25; 15. Rodgers Kwemoi (Ken) 27:52.26; 16. Rodrigue Kwizéra (Bur) 28:01.49; 17. Samuel Habtom (Eri) 28:01.81; 18. Egide Ntakarutimana (Bur) 28:24.07; 19. Jack Rayner (Aus) 28:24.12; 20. Ren Tazawa (Jpn) 28:24.25; 21. Zouhair Talbi (Mor) 28:28.69; 22. Tatsuhiko Ito (Jpn) 28:57.85; 23. Patrick Dever (GB) 29:13.88; 24. Stephen Kissa (Uga) 29:21.10.
(leader kilos: Mayo 2:45.81, 5:31.74; Kissa 8:20.07; Cheptegei 11:11.53; Barega 14:01.33; Kiplimo 16:44.45; Cheptegei 19:29.87, 22:18.21; Barega 25:01.67) ◻︎