Justin Lagat writes about the possible successes of the Kenyan teams in Kampala, Uganda at the end of this month. The World Cross Country continues to be affected by athletes from Kenya and Ethiopia who have emigrated to other countries, and Justin notes that in his column, including, for the first time, the USA. But, how can he not, with the addition of several young Kenyan athletes, several who have taken U.S. citizenship by joining the U.S. Army? How is this different than what is being done in Qatar and Bahrain? I am at a loss to explain the differences.
Leonard Barsoton, Kenyan XC 2015, photo by PhotoRun.net
Agnes Tirop, 2017 Campaccio, photo by PhotoRun.net
In 2015, in Guiyang, China, the IAAF world cross country senior individual titles had gone to Kenyans, while the team titles had gone to the Ethiopians. The competition between Kenya and Ethiopia was close, but it was Ethiopia that emerged top on the medal table with eleven medals against Kenya's 9. This time round, Kenyan athletes have expressed their confidence that they are more determined and ready to win more titles this time round.
"We are aware of strong athletes representing other countries, including the Kenyans who have changed their citizenship and now represent Bahrain, Qatar, USA and Uganda among others, but we are ready for them," Agnes told reporters in their training camp in Embu.
During the Guiyang championships, Agnes Tirop had won the senior women's title and Irene Cheptai had contributed valuable points to the team by finishing 7th. The two will be part of the team aain this year. There are additions with great potential. Alice Aprot and Faith Chepngetich both have great, Aprot having won the African Cross Country senior title in 2014 on the same venue in Kampala while Chepngetich has won two world cross country junior titles in 2011 and in 2013. Hyvin Kiyeng and Lilian Kasait completes a formidable squad for Kenya in the women's senior race which seems to be the best team ever assembled.
Geoffrey Kamworor, the senior men's reigning champion has been quite silent after a disappointing performance at the Rio Olympics in the men's 10,000m event. His recent appearance was during the national trials to select Kenya's team to Kampala, and he did enough, by finishing third, to convince his fans that he is still one of the athletes to watch out for in Kampala.
Bedan Karoki who won silver during the last edition in Guiyang is out of the Kenyan team in the men's race, having finished second at the national trials but opted to focus on his debut at the London Marathon. But, Leornard Barsoton who just won the national trials is a stronger man this time round than he was in 2015 and shows the potential to fill the gap left by Karoki if not even do better.
Richard Kimunyan and Sandra Chebet are both in great form to deliver the individual titles in the junior men's and women's races respectively.
The introduction of the mixed race, that promises to make the event more fun, will also increase Kenya's chances for more medals this time round. World and Olympic 1500m champion, Asbel Kiprop will lead the Kenyans in this race. However, this new event also promises to be another duel between Ethiopia and Kenya.