NAIROBI, Kenya, March 30 –World Cross Country senior women champion Florence Kiplagat says the challenging track at the Bisharat Golf course almost cost her the title.Kiplagat who became the first Kenyan woman in 15 years to win the senior women’s individual title said on Monday that she worked closely with teammate and silver medallist Linet Masai to ward off the threat from perennial rivals Ethiopia.
“The course was extremely tough because it had many hills and dips which made it difficult for us,” said Kiplagat who won the race in a time of 26:13.
“Behind us there was a lot of pressure from two Ethiopians. At the same time Linet (Masai) was getting tired as we neared the finish line. I decided to speed her and encouraged her to stay close to me,” said Kiplagat.
“Ahead I thought that if I slowed down the Ethiopians would catch up that’s why I opened up the gap and Linet followed my lead,” she added.
Masai who led for most the race finished three seconds behind kiplagat ahead of third place Meselech Melkamu of Ethiopia who crossed the line in 26:19.
Despite retaining the team title, coach Julius Kirwa said that the unforgiving Jordanian weather put paid to Kenya’s chances of an even better performance at the annual event.
“We were running in minus nine (degrees Celsius). When we were training at Kigari it was hot but in Amman the cold was too much for the athletes to deal with,” said Kirwa.
“We expected the same kind of weather in Jordan but when we got there it became very difficult to adjust,” he added.
Kirwa also expressed his disappointment with the course.
“The course was terrible. There were so many hills and dips which made the athletes exhausted,” said Kirwa.
“There was a point towards the finish line where the athletes had to climb a gradient of 200m which together with the biting wind made it difficult for the athletes to breathe,” he added.
Kirwa believes that senior men’s winner Gebre Gebremariam of Ethiopia and runner up Moses Kipsiro of Uganda were fortunate to have performed well in the race.
“They were lucky this time around. Last time both runners did not do well but this time round, our misfortune was their gain,” said Kirwa.
Team captain Mark Kiptoo said that the final stretch in the 12km race proved too much for his team who failed to secure a place in the podium.
“It was open race mainly because Bekele (Kenenisa) was not there. But those final minutes we did not do well. But overall it was a good performance.