In 2017, during the World Cross Country Championships held at Kololo grounds in Kampala, Uganda, Kenyan athletics fans thronged the venue to cheer their team.
It was the perfect opportunity for them to watch world acclaimed athletes in action on a pocket-friendly budget. Many Kenyan fans travelled to Uganda via road in busloads to attend the one-day championship.
And when Jacob Kiplimo won the junior men's race, some Kenyans cheered wildly thinking that he was one of their own. A number of them thought that he was their countryman because Kiplimo is a name that is commonly used among the Kalenjin community which mainly lives in Rift Valley in Kenya.
However, they were wrong because Kiplimo hails from the Sebei community in Kapchorwa, Uganda - one of the regions that has shot to the limelight because of prowess in athletics.
The fast-rising Kiplimo has been giving Kenyan athletes sleepless nights, and his opponents usually refer to him as tough.
One man - Peter Chelangat - his coach, is behind his steady rise.
Chelangat, who was also Uganda's team manager during the global meeting in Kampala, told Nation Sport that when the men's junior race began during the World Cross Country Championships, the athletes in the leading pack appeared strong and he did not expect Kiplimo to win the title.
"I was so happy when Kiplimo bagged the gold medal and became one of the youngest champions over the distance. I didn't expect him to win, but he has done us proud because he stayed strong to the end. He has really taken athletics in our country to another level," Chelangat said.
The coach said that after sports activities were suspended in Uganda last year due to the coronavirus pandemic, Kiplimo continued his training with minimal supervision.
"I advised Kiplimo and a few other athletes to carry on training because I knew that eventually sports will resume. I'm happy because he followed my instructions and today we are all smiling because of the good job he has been doing together with his teammates," said the coach.
Chelangat who was born in 1977 in Ngenge/Kween, Kapchorwa, works for Uganda Athletics Federation as the national camp manager. He is also in charge of athletes under the Rosa Associati management.
Chelangat told Nation Sport that he identified Kiplimo's talent in 2015.
"Indeed it has been a long journey, and Kiplimo's sterling performance has motivated me to continue looking for more talent in the region. He is a disciplined athlete who always follows instructions," he said.
Another notable product of Kapchorwa is the world 10,000 metres and 5,000m record holder, Joshua Cheptegei. Others are Commonwealth Games 10,000m champion Stella Chesang, Esther Chebet and World Under-20 Championships 3,000m steeplechase silver medallist Peruth Chemutai.
The 2012 London Olympic Games marathon gold medallist, Stephen Kiprotich, also comes from Kapchorwa. He trains both in Kapchorwa and in Kenya at Kaptagat, Elgeyo-Marakwet County.
Since competitive athletics resumed in late 2020 after the Covid-19 break, Kiplimo has had stellar performances.
In September last year, Kiplimo travelled to Ostrava, Czech Republic via Eldoret for the Ostrava Golden Spike. He won the 5,000m men's race after beating Ethiopian Selemon Barega.
On October 17, Kiplimo won the World Half Marathon title, beating Kenya's Kandie Kibiwott to second place, while Cheptegei finished fifth.
Chelangat said that when he took Kiplimo under his wing, he became a focused athlete and has put Uganda on the global map. The coach said that he was the youngest athlete on the Ugandan team which competed in the 2016 Rio Olympic Games in Brazil. Kiplimo managed to reach the semi-finals in the 5,000m men's race.
Chelangat set up Sipi Falls Athletics Club in 2012 in Kapchorwa which became outstanding for producing top athletes such as Musobo Fred, Chemonges Robert, Ayeko Joel Kiplangat, Victor Chemutai, Albert Chekwemoi, Sharon Chepkwemboi and Esther Yeko, among others.
Chelangat said Kapchorwa which is 1,900m above sea level, is the perfect place to train and the fruits of their labour can be seen.
"My passion for athletics prompted me to set up Sipi Falls Athletics Club to nurture talent. This captured the attention of national athletics officials in Kampala when the athletes started performing well," said Chelangat.
Rosa Associati management
At one time, the coach lacked facilitation when one of his financiers Siya Rodgers withdrew his support. Chelangat said that he approached officials of the national Ugandan athletics federation who helped him transfer his athletes to ARUA Athletics Club. Chelangat said since then he has never looked back.
"The athletes under me are doing well and they have a bright future," said the coach who holds Bachelor's degree in Social Sciences from Makerere University, a Diploma Secondary Education from Kyambogo University and a Diploma in Sports Management from Uganda Olympics Council.
"My appreciation goes to Rosa Associati Management for the good support they have given to our athletes here in Kapchorwa, Uganda, without forgetting Uganda Athletics Federation President Dominic Otuchet," said Chelangat.
He is also grateful for the support he gets from Lacopo Brasi, a coach based in Italy who has been helping athletes in his camp.
At the same time, Chelangat congratulated Kenya's Peres Jepchirchir for setting the women's World Half Marathon record on October 17 last year in Gyndia, Poland.
He said that she is a good example to upcoming athletes. He wants a Ugandan athlete to break the record this year.