NAIROBI, Kenya, March 18- John Cheruiyot Korir (2001 and 2003), Richard Limo (2002), Eliud Kipchoge (2004 and 2005), Moses Masai (2006), Gideon Ngatuny (2008), Moses Mosop (2007 and 2009) and Paul Tanui (2010) and Geoffrey Mutai (2011) are all victims of the Kenyan World Cross jinx.
These are the winners of the senior men 12km long race at the Kenyan championships who have gone on to fail to add the world title at the now biennial global showpiece.
Philemon Rono, 22, is the man hoping to break the hoodoo on Sunday when he lines-up at the 40th edition of the event in Bydgoszcz, Poland.
The first timer at the even sealed his slot in the Kenyan squad by conquering an intimidating field on February 16 when he beat all comers during the AK/KCB National Cross Country Championships that were an IAAF Permit meeting.
Speaking to Capital Sport at the team’s training camp in Kigari, Embu Rono a Police Constable attached to the Airwing in Mombasa is quietly confident that he can make history in Poland.
“I know as the Kenyan champion, all the attention will be on me but on the day, I will not look at any name next to me or worry about my position. I will just run my race and do what I can,” he explained.
The seventh born in a family of eight hailing from Marakwet County is also seeking to be the first police officer to deliver the Holy Grail of the World Cross.
Only athletes affiliated to the Kenya Defence Forces, namely John Ngugi and Paul Tergat who won it five times each, William Sigei (1993 and 1994) and lately, Joseph Ebuya (2010).
“It would make history for me to become the first policeman to win the men senior title but it will not be easy. The World Cross is a team effort and the first thing is to work with my team mates to ensure we are all in a good position.
“We have a strong squad and since we started training, we have been working together to ensure that we deliver the title to the country and if that happens and I’m not the winner, I will be still be grateful,” the national titleholder said.
The Global Sport runner might have surprised most when he won the race said to be tougher than the World Cross itself in some quarters but according to him, the outcome was not at all expected.
“I started the season at the Kenya Police Cross Country championships since my coach had advised me to take rest and train hard so that I could be in good shape around this time.
“When I finished eighth at the Police championships, I returned to him and we worked on the few areas I had a problem with and when the Nationals came, I was ready. I have used the time I have been here to sharpen on my shape,” he told.
He is coached by the retired two-time Worlds and Olympics steeplechase silver medallist, Patrick Sang, who remains a big influence in his life.
The former Kamasia Primary and Kapcherop Boys Secondary school student who trains in Kaptagat has established himself as a gifted half marathon athlete after his attempts to break into the Kenyan team on track failed.
“My aim is to run under 60:00 this season and competing in the half marathon has been one of my successes. I realised I needed to try road running since I was not going far on the track,” he explained.
Timothy Kiptoo, Geoffrey Kirui, Hosea Macharinyang, Jonathan Ndiku and Japheth Korir will be Rono’s team mates for the senior long race in Poland.
Only Macharinyang and Korir have prior World Cross experience.