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Ethiopians expected at National XC showdown

PUNTA-UMBRIA-TRAININGNAIROBI, Kenya, January 29- At least four foreign countries among them bitter distance running rivals Ethiopia will participate at the February 16 KCB/AK National Cross Country Championships where Kenya’s team for the World Cross will be selected.

Athletics Kenya (AK) is awaiting final confirmation from the countries invited on Wednesday before releasing the list of the foreign nationals who will mix it with the local cream chasing the 24 slots available for the March 24 biennial global showpiece.

As a result, the event has qualified to be an IAAF Permit Meeting after failing to get the certification last year where it only served to choose the team that participated at the Africa Cross Country Championships in Cape Town, South Africa.

AK general secretary, David Okeyo, announced on Tuesday that Uganda and a female athlete from Sweden are the only invitees to decline the offer to face the Kenyans on their home turf.

“Uganda will also be selecting their team for the World Cross on and the athlete from Sweden told us she would skip the event due to maternal duty. We have a team coming from Ethiopia and we have invited athletes from South Africa, Britain and one from New Zealand who is training in Iten already,” he added.

The federation also disclosed they were seeking to hold the event at its former home, Nairobi’s Ngong Racecourse following concerns over the state of Uhuru Gardens where it has been domiciled for the past two years.

“I was informed that a few athletes left their shoes in the mud during the Prisons championships and we do not want to take any chances during the event where we will select our World Cross team.

“There are potholes and water logged sections at Uhuru Gardens and we are speaking to the Jockey Club of Kenya to see whether we can return the event to Ngong. If this is not possible, we shall ask our technical team to ensure we can compete at Uhuru,” AK chairman, Isaiah Kiplagat stated.

The federation boss added the selected team would have four, instead of the usual three weeks to train for the Bydgoszcz World Cross as the country seeks to replicate their performance at the same city three years ago where Kenya scooped eight out of eight gold medals.

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“We had planned to have a training camp for probables in Ngong but we have cancelled that because most of the athletes we had selected belong to institutions and regional teams that asked us to allow them to continue training in their camps,” Kiplagat explained.

Being a Permit Meeting, winners of the senior men 12km and women 8km showdowns will receive $2,500 (Sh217,500) each with world governing body IAAF requiring at least four nations or six foreign athletes in the said events starting for it to qualify for the status.

Kenya Commercial Bank who sponsor the domestic cross country series and national championships have already set aside $29.989 (Sh2m) specifically for organisation and prize money for the Permit meet.

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