Monday, March 14, 2011

Kenya seek to maintain good run

By Chris Musumba

Anybody can make history; only a great nation can write it. That will be the spirit Kenya will have as it parades its 24 athletes this Sunday in Punta Umbria, Spain for the World cross country championship.

After sweeping the gold medal podium and having its national anthem sung eight times, there is little Kenya will seek in a bid to improve last year’s performance other than winning the three more medals – one silver and two bronze - it missed in Bydgoszcz, Poland in 2010.

Only a few countries – Ethiopia, Eritrea, Uganda, Qatar – are expected to challenge Kenya in Spain which will for the third time host the world’s finest runners from 800m to marathon, 30 years after Madrid played host in 1981 before returning to the Basque city of Amorebieta in 1993.

But several top athletes will be missing out from Eritrea, Kenya or Ethiopia. Kenya will certainly miss the service of all its four champions – Mercy Cherono, Caleb Mwangangi, Emily Chebet and Joseph Ebuya – all who failed the test of the explosive national trials, partly due to injury or loss of form.

Six-time winner

In Addis Ababa, the young Ethiopia team of 24 will be led by three-time world cross country bronze medallist Meselech Melkamu. Eritrea will look out for Teklemariam Medhin, the silver medallist in the senior men 12km race while Uganda has trust in Moses Kipsiro who won bronze.

Melkamu, Medhin and Kipsiro were the only athletes to have won medals in last year’s event. However, the absence of six times World cross country winner Kenenisa Bekele, Tirunesh Dibaba, who won three times and Meseret Defar, the world indoor 3,000m champion does not water down the event.

Bekele and Dibaba are recovering from long term injuries and have not featured in this season’s competitions. Dibaba’s last race was in Nairobi in August where she was winner of the 10,000m race.

Defar opted for the indoor circuit while other cross country stalwarts like Sileshi Sihine and 2009 winner Gebregziabher Gebremariam did not receive any wild card entries this time around after missing the Ethiopian trials.

Silver medallist

This leaves Eritrea as the main challenger, though those named in the Ethiopian team can still cause a surprise. Spoilers will emerge from Uganda, especially Africa and Commonwealth Games sensational Moses Kipsiro and his colleague Geoffrey Kusiro.

Melkamu, the only Ethiopian to have won a medal medallist in last year’s championships in Poland face’s a litmus test in the senior women 8km race against Linet Masai, the silver medallist and Vivian Cheruiyot, the world 5,000m champion who is making a comeback to cross country.