NAIROBI, Kenya, March 27 – With hours to go to the 37th IAAF World Cross Country Championships in Amman, the question on everybody’s lips is whether Kenya can clinch that ever elusive individual title.
A decade has flown by since Paul Tergat won the senior men’s 12 km race in Belfast.
Since then it has been a case of so close yet so far for the athletes who have hoped to emulate the likes of Tergat, fellow five time winner John Ngugi and 1994 senior men’s winner William Sigei.
Kenya’s 24 year dominance in this event as a team may have cushioned the pain caused by lack of solo wins but individual plaudits are definitely on the radar of Julius Kirwa’s charges.
Last year’s senior men’s runners up Leonard Komon and 2007 silver medalist Moses Mosop will spearhead Kenya’s challenge at the Bisharat Golf course and will be buoyed by not having to contend with the shadow of six time winner and Ethiopian running legend Kenenisa Bekele.
The absence of Kenenisa’s younger brother Tariku due to an ankle injury will definitely enhance the chances of Kenya’s senior men.
Komon will be making his fourth appearance at the championships where he hopes to continue his impressive record in the championship.
Komon finished runners up and fourth respectively in the junior category in 2006 and 2007 respectively.
Mosop who fully recovered from an achilles injury late last year marked his return by triumphing at last month’s national trials and a win on Saturday will be the perfect tonic after a difficult recovery programme.
Mangata Ndiwa and Mathew Kisorio will be making their senior debuts with either possessing the capability to win.
Ndiwa will be making his return to the championship since winning the junior title in 2006 after a period blighted by illness and injury.
Despite the absence of the Bekele siblings, Kenya’s main threat will still come form the Horn of Africa in the form of Eritrean and three time World Half Marathon champion Zersenay Tadese.
Linet Masai and Florence Kiplagat will be at the forefront of Kenya’s challenge in the senior women’s category.
Masai comes into the championships at the back of an impressive season in Europe while Pauline Korikwiang will be keen to restore the faith showed in her by the national selectors by putting in an impressive performance.
World Youth and World Junior championship 3000m gold medalist Mercy Cherono is favourite to rule the roost in the junior category but will have to fend off the challenge of defending champion Genzebe Dibaba.
Men’s 12km: Moses Mosop, Mathew Kisorio, Mark Kiptoo, Linus Chumba, Mangata Ndiwa, Leonard Komon.
Men’s 8km: John Kemboi, Paul Tanui, Japhet Korir, John Chepkwony, Titus Mbishei, Charles Bett Chepkurui.
Women 8km: Florence Kiplagat, Iness Chenonge, Linet Masai, Linet Chepkurui, Ann Karindi, Pauline Korikwiang
Women’s 6km: Mercy Cherono, Hilda Chepkemoi, Delvin Meringor, Jackline Chebii, Faith Chepngetich, and Nelly Chebet.