NAIROBI, Kenya, February 12- World Cross junior titleholder, Geoffrey Kipsang and veteran Eliud Kipchoge are the latest elite athletes to pull out of Saturday’s IAAF Permit/KCB/AK National Cross Country Championships.
Their announcement is further headache to national coaches and Athletics Kenya (AK) ahead of the selection event for the March 24 IAAF World Cross Country in Punta Umbria where the country is bidding to send a team that will replicate their historic eight out of eight gold medals harvest.
Kipsang, the World cross country 8km junior men champion two years ago in Punta Umbria, Spain, will not be defending his crown as he chases the $250,000 (Sh21.75m) Ras Al Khaimah Half Marathon honours in the United Arab Emirates on Friday.
“I have confirmed participation at the event,” Kipsang who bagged the Kenya Police senior 12km crown a fortnight ago in Nairobi added from his base in Eldoret.
“I have opted to skip the cross country championships to try my luck on the road races. This is a planned move since I have been thinking of moving up the cadre to the marathon distance,” Kipchoge the former World 5000m world titleholder said.
“There are many younger runners who can step up and fill our shoes and challenge for the title in Poland. Many senior athletes are looking at the monetary value in the event compared to the road races and it is logic for them to jump ship,” the seasoned athlete underscored.
Thus far defending senior women champion Vivian Cheruiyot and her Punta Umbria bridesmaid Linet Masai have announced their withdrawal, though Masai’s move was prompted by a calf injury.
Kenya has a long list of athletes competing at the Ras Half marathon including Berlin marathon champion Geoffrey Mutai, who was fifth over 12km in Spain.
“I only wanted to gauge my speed and preparedness ahead of my return to UAE where I will try and reclaim the Ras Half marathon title, which I last won in 2011,” said Mutai who was second at the Kenya Police championships.
Stephen Kibet (58:54), Ezekiel Chebii (59:05), Micah Kogo (59:07), Pius Maio Kirop (59:25), Geoffrey Kipsang (59:26), Joel Kimurer (59: 36), Stanley Biwott (59:44), Daniel Chebii (59:49) and 2011 London Marathon titleholder, Emmanuel Mutai (59:52) are the other Kenyans in the men’s line-up.