Coach Addy Ruiter on star pupil Cheptegei, he will be the new standard

When Joshua Cheptegei made history to wipe 1.99 seconds from Kenenisa Bekele’s world 5000m record in Monaco in August, it generated an outpouring of ecstasy in a mild-mannered Dutchman situated some 9000 kilometres away in Uganda.

“I’d been following the race by livestream and after he set the record I was leaping around the house, I was very happy,” explains Cheptegei’s coach, Addy Ruiter.

Yet despite the inevitable nerves Ruiter experienced that night, he was also very optimistic.

Some four weeks earlier, Cheptegei completed a track session on a far from standard grass oval track in Kapchorwa which filled his coach with confidence.

“That day, Joshua showed me he was in 12:30 shape (for the 5000m) and at a much higher level than Bekele’s 12:37 (5000m world record),” he said. “Knowing he was that much further ahead of the world record was important because we knew the likely hot conditions he would face in Monaco would slow him down a little.”

Still aged just 23, the world cross country and 10,000m champion appears armed with all the qualities to become the dominant distance runner of his generation.

After taking down Bekele’s world 5000m record his next target is the Ethiopian’s 15-year-old world 10,000m record of 26:17.53 which he will attack on October 7, in Valencia.

Some ten days later the Ugandan sensation will make his eagerly-awaited debut over the 21.1km distance at the World Athletics Half Marathon Championships Gdynia 2020 in Poland where he will look to claim his first world road title.

‘Coaching was in my blood’

His potential looks limitless, yet behind every great athlete is always a great coach and there is little doubt the avuncular Ruiter ticks all the boxes as a knowledgeable and innovative foil for the super-talented Cheptegei.

Born and raised in the small city of Papendrecht in western Holland, Ruiter was a handy schoolboy athlete but with a curious nature he was quickly drawn to coaching and recalls guiding a number of runners as a high school student.

“Coaching was in my blood,” he says.

Yet running and coaching back then could not dislodge his passion for travel. With an interest in the world around him and a desire to experience different cultures, he would spend periods of time working to save enough money to visit many far flung parts of the world.

He travelled extensively through Asia, spent prolonged periods in Australia and in total has visited 97 countries around the globe.

The Dutchman re-engaged with running for a short period of time around the age of 30. He trained hard and whittled his 10km personal best down to 30 minutes. Then the travel bug took over once again.

“I was someone with a talent but not enough of a talent to train so for a long period of time,” he adds.

On Gdynia: ‘he is capable of winning’

That next target is the world 10,000m record followed by his half marathon debut in Gdynia. There will be huge expectations around Cheptegei, but Ruiter is slightly cautious.

“It was sad they were forced to postpone the original race back in March because we had enjoyed the perfect preparation,” he says.

“In recent months we have been preparing to run the 5000m and 10,000m world records, so this time it has not been a perfect preparation. But even without an ideal build up he is capable of winning the race.”

In the longer term the priority is the track climaxing with the 2024 Paris Olympics, from which point the road and the marathon will be the main priority and of all surfaces, Ruiter believes the road is the one best suited to the Ugandan.

posted Monday September 28th
by World Athletics