KAMPALA, Uganda, March 24 – Dressing in a dazzling maroon dress with a yellow ribbon for the ladies and a dapper navy blue suit look for the men, the Team Kenya Cross Country squad arrived with confidence at the Entebbe International Airport ahead of Sunday’s global showpiece at the Kololo Grounds in Kampala, Uganda.
The contingent of 43 led by Team Manager Evans Bosire touched down at 4:30pm, strolling with swag to bring the busy Entebbe International Airport to a standstill as some of the people waiting for their guests turned all the attention to the East African athletics power house.
Team Kenya was unique in terms of dressing as all the teams including their bitter rivals Ethiopia donned the national team ceremonial track suit while Comoros who had a contingent of only four players saw each athlete wear his own casual attire.
Speaking upon arrival, defending champion in the men’s senior race Geoffrey Kamworor is upbeat of retaining the title that will make him only the second Kenyan after legendary Paul Tergat to retain a World Cross Country title. Tergat won it five-times consecutively from 1993-1999.
“Tumekuja kumaliza kazi (We have come to finish business). We are ready and I don’t feel any pressure defending the title because I have trained well. I will be honoured to retain the title because it’s only legends who does that since at the moment it’s only Tergat who has done it,” Kamworor told Capital FM’s Alex Isaboke in Kampala.
Vice-captain Faith Kipyegon who missed the 2015 edition due to a leg injury, is looking nothing short of winning her first ever women’s senior title and also help the recapture of the women’s team title from Ethiopia.
“I thank God we have arrived safely in Kampala. We have done enough training and I know we will get good results. We are very strong and Ethiopians are strong too but we did our training well and we are the best, we will win,” Kipyegon, the 1500m Olympic champion said.
With many Kenyan-born athletes set to turn out for various countries on Sunday like Bahrain and USA, Kipyegon says she does not fear anybody but instead noted that their main objective is to embrace team work.
“I know it will be Kenya vs Kenya because there are Kenyans who are coming from Bahrain and other countries and are strong but we will help each other and I know we are going to make it,” the 23-year-old Kipyegon stated.
“I’m well prepared this year because I didn’t have any injury. I missed the 2015 edition but I thank God because I’m healthy and we are going to work as a team on Sunday to ensure we win,” she added.
On her part defending senior women’s champion Agnes Tirop said, “We are just waiting for Sunday we finish the job. I am under no pressure because I have trained well. We will work as a team.”
Team Manager Bosire is confident the team will sweep all the medals with focus being on both the men and women Under-20 titles that Kenya lost to Ethiopia.
“As you can see the morale is very high. We have come here to win, we have not come here to participate. We have no injuries and you wait for Sunday we will be able to do it. The other Kenyans who are running for other countries we are aware of them. We have laid our strategies and prepared for them because we know their weakness since they are originally from Kenya,” Bosire said.
Meanwhile the battle will be on the relays introduced in this edition where 1500m stars Kenyan three-time world champion Asbel Kiprop and Ethiopian women’s world record holder Genzebe Dibaba.
Team Kenya will have a feel of the challenging course on Saturday morning.
Alex Isaboke is reporting from Kampala, Uganda