Kiplimo and Chebet win consecutive world cross country titles. GETTY IMAGES

Uganda's Jacob Kiplimo and Kenya's Beatrice Chebet successfully defended their world cross country titles in Belgrade on Saturday, confirming the absolute dominance of the African continent at this event.

It's only the fifth time in history that both the men's and women's titles have been retained at the world championships - the first since Ethiopia's Kenenisa Bekele and Tirunesh Dibaba in 2005/06, according to AFP. 

The World Athletics Council decided to award the event to the Serbian capital after concluding that preparations in Medulin and Pula, Croatia, were "not sufficiently advanced".

The top 13 women were born in Africa, including Kazakh Daisy Jepkemei (7th). And in the men's race, the top 16 are also African, including the now-Spanish Thierry Ndikimwenayo (9th). The first non-Africans were Spain's Aaron Las Heras (17th) and Norway's Karoline Bjerkeli Grovdal (14th).

Kiplimo, 23, made it three successive world titles for Uganda - Joshua Cheptegei won the 2019 edition - by clocking 28:09 for the 10,000km journey. He joins legends Bekele and Paul Tergat in defending the title, although he still has some way to go to match their achievements of five consecutive victories. 

Jacob Kiplimo confirmed his status as the world's best cross-country runner in Belgrade. GETTY IMAGES
Jacob Kiplimo confirmed his status as the world's best cross-country runner in Belgrade. GETTY IMAGES

"It actually feels more exciting to successfully defend my title than to win the first one, but it was also harder. I came here expecting to win again, but the field was really strong," said the winner. 

Uganda's Kiplimo said the title was the perfect morale boost after missing last year's World Outdoor Championships with a hamstring injury. "The course was good, a bit challenging with the obstacles. I was hungry for a medal after missing out at last year's World Athletics Championships in Budapest," said Kiplimo, the world record holder in the half marathon. 

"I was in good shape, but then the injury happened and I had to get treatment, but I am back now. My goal this year is to do what Joshua Cheptegei did and win an Olympic gold. My main focus is the 10,000m, but I'm not sure yet if I want to double," he added. 

The Commonwealth 5,000m and 10,000m champion finished three seconds ahead of Ethiopia's Berihu Aregawi, who also took silver last year in Bathurst, Australia. Kenya's Benson Kiplangat took bronze, two seconds behind Aregawi, while Cheptegei finished a disappointing sixth, 15 seconds behind his compatriot's winning time. 

Beatrice Chebet was unstoppable in the final metres. GETTY IMAGES
Beatrice Chebet was unstoppable in the final metres. GETTY IMAGES

Kenya's Beatrice Chebet had earlier become the first runner to successfully defend her title since Ethiopian great Dibaba in 2005/06, completing a clean sweep of the Kenyan medals.

The 24-year-old was only fourth in the Kenyan trials for the championships, but she finished three seconds ahead of Lilian Rengeruk. Margaret Kipkemboi took bronze, one second behind Rengeruk, with two other Kenyans finishing fourth and fifth. 

Chebet's win was Kenya's ninth consecutive victory in the women's race. "We won the team title, that showed very strong teamwork," said Chebet. We trained together after the trials, we eat the same food. We were a team and being together helped us get the best result here." 

"It is not easy to come to a world championship and defend your title, there is a lot of pressure. My goal was to finish on the podium. I felt I was stronger with about 500m to go."