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Kipsang, Karoki deliver Guiyang Holy Grail

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GUIYANG, March 28- A superlative display of team work delivered the most coveted prize at the 2015 IAAF World Cross Country Championships in Guiyang, China when Geoffrey Kipsang Kamworor led Bedan Karoki for the 1-2 in the senior men 12km race.

In winning the Holy Grail of the World Cross on a cold, wet and humid Saturday morning at the Quingzhen Training Base, Kipsang became the sixth Kenyan in a roll of honour that reads John Ngugi, Paul Tergat (both five-time winners), William Sigei (two-time winner), Joseph Ebuya and outgoing titleholder, Japheth Korir who was not here to defend his crown.

But even the champion who completed the twisting, hilly and difficult course with heavy underfoot in 34:52 paid glowing tribute to his teammate, Karoki who took silver in 35 minutes dead as the pair worked together from the off to grind down the competition, with Ethiopia’s bronze winner Muktar Edris (35:06) the last man standing, in a performance that earned round praise from jubilant Kenyans.

It was the spectacular golden ending to a day that started with Kenya being taken to the cleaners by their archrivals in the opening junior races before Agnes Tirop struck back with a solo victory in the senior women race as Kamworor, who adds the World Cross title to the World Half Marathon and 2011 World Cross junior gold medals put the icing on the cake.

“The race was very competitive but we teamed up with Karoki to the very end. We are very happy to have won gold and silver. We had planned to run together and we have shown and done it and we celebrate as a team.

“We thank God we made it, we pushed the pace high until we won. I won the World Juniors in 2011 and the World Half last year and today, I’m very happy since it is hard to win a medal. I’m going straight away to prepare for the World Championships,” the freshly minted king of the World Cross declared.

“We were working as a team and we have made it. I’m very happy to get a medal, I challenged in the Olympics and World Championships and never made it but today, I have won silver and I’m so happy,” the beaming Karoki, arms across the shoulder of the winner added.

“When we run 10km, we saw we had opened a big gap after we helped each other over the hills and from there, we had decided whoever wins it, we will not mind. We are targeting the World Championships and if we help each other, we can do what we did here,” the Japan based national champion who announced he would eye the 10,000m squad for the summer Worlds in Beijing alongside Kipsang told.

Head coach, David Letting was effusing praise for the duo that helped Kenya to once again rule the now biennial global showpiece by claiming the biggest prize on offer.

“It is the first time to finish 1-2 in the senior men. We planned for them to run as a team and we are glad it worked. We had told them to stay in front and whoever wins has done it for Kenya. We did not point out any individual,” the veteran of ten years with the squad explained.

– Tactical master class-TEAM KENYALike all the three races that preceded the signature race, the senior 12km was a straight battle between the Kenyans and Ethiopians, with their representatives setting themselves apart from the first kilometre with only naturalised Bahrainis, Qataris and Ugandans keeping in touch.

By the second kilometre, Kenya’s game plan was laid out at the course for all to see when Kamworor, a two-time third finisher at Berlin Marathon in 2013 and 14 used his powerful engine to go to the front and push the pace.

Karoki, who beat him to the tape at the Trials in Nairobi, was in close attendance with the feared Ethiopian 5000m speedsters, Hagos Gebrhiwet, the junior champion from 2013 and Mukhtar Edris, a World Junior track champion forming the main threat.

Karoki led them through the midway point with Kamworor a step back ahead of the Ethiopian duo of Edris, Tamirat Tola their national champion with another Japan based Kenyan and African Cross champion, Leonard Barsoton rounding the top four.

Karoki-Kamworor, Kamworor-Karoki, Karoki-Kamworor, Kamworor-Karoki took turns to hit the front with Edris keeping close attendance as Barsoton who claimed a commendable fourth finish in 35:15 fell further back as at the 10km mark.

After shadow boxing with the Ethiopia challenger who was feared for his 5000m track pace, Edris was dispensed with shortly after to leave an internal competition for gold for the Kenyans.

Running side by side, stride for stride, Kamworor and Karoki were a joy to watch for the next kilometre and a half before the winner made his move, a side way glance signalling his intention before he used his superior finishing speed to cap the glory before waiting for his comrade-at-arms for a crushing embrace at the tape in another gripping sporting moment.

With that, it was honours even between Kenya and Ethiopia who took home four gold medals each as they laid a marker for the next edition in Kampala, two years from now.

Mutwiri Mutuota is reporting from Guiyang, China

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