Sports / Updates
Thursday, 23 Mar 2017 14:29 EAT
Not since the five-year reign of Kenenisa Bekele from 2002 to 2006 has a senior man managed to win back-to-back world cross-country titles, but Geoffrey Kamworor could, says the IAAF. The world athletics governing body believes winning the title back-to-back is what Kamworor will be aiming for at the IAAF World Cross Country Championships Kampala 2017 on Sunday 26 March. Sunday’s race will mark exactly one year since his triumph at the IAAF World Half Marathon Championships Cardiff 2016, which also happens to be his most recent victory.
In a somewhat disrupted past 12 months, Kamworor has raced just three times since then, finishing second over 5000m at the IAAF Diamond League meeting in Eugene, placing 11th in the 10,000m at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games, and finishing third at last month’s Kenyan Cross Country Championships.
But Kamworor isn’t unduly concerned ahead of his title defence on Sunday. Cross country is one of his strengths, which he first displayed when winning the 2011 world U20 cross-country title. Combined with his ability to raise his game when it matters, Kamworor will be a formidable opponent in Kampala.
The 25-year-old athlete boasts a marathon personal best time 2:06:12 hrs (2012). Leonard Barsoton won the senior men’s race at the Kenyan Cross Country Championships, but that often counts for little when it comes to the World Cross. The last time the winner of the Kenyan Cross Country Championships went on to become the top Kenyan finisher at the World Cross Country Championships was back in 2007.
Nevertheless, the 2013 world U20 cross-country silver medallist should still be in the hunt for medals and will be keen to improve on his fifth-place finish from two years ago in Guiyang. Kampala’s Kalolo Independence Grounds also holds good memories for Barsoton as it is where he won the 2014 African cross-country title.
Better known as a pace maker, Vincent Rono finished fourth at the Kenyan Cross Country Championships, just a few seconds behind Kamworor. He has never previously represented Kenya at an international championship, but now finally has a chance to shine as an athlete in his own right. Leonard Komon took the senior men’s silver medal back in 2008 and went on to break world records for 10km and 15km little more than two years later.
After a few fallow years, Komon is regaining form and will be a valuable member of the Kenyan team on Sunday alongside Leonard Langat, Nicholas Kosimbei and Mark Bett. Much like the curse of the Kenyan cross-country champion, the winner of the Ethiopian Cross Country Championships rarely goes on to be the country’s top finisher at the World Cross.
But national champion Getaneh Molla could be the man to break that trend. Molla has never quite received the respect he deserves. National titles are hard to come by in Ethiopia, but Molla has four of them: two at 5000m and two at cross country. He also won the African Games 5000m title in 2015. But because he has never represented his country at a global championships, he is still a relatively unknown name internationally.
Team-mate Muktar Edris, meanwhile, is one of the more familiar faces on the international circuit. Two years after taking the U20 men’s bronze medal at the 2013 World Cross Country Championships, he went on to win the same colour medal in the senior men’s race just two years later in Guiyang. His results this year have been mixed, though.
He won at the prestigious Campaccio meeting in January but finished a distant 40th at the Ethiopian Cross Country Championships, later complaining of “injury and pain” in the middle of the race. Like Molla, Abadi Hadis could be on the verge of a breakthrough. He won the Ethiopian 10,000m title on his debut at the distance last year and went on to finish 15th in the event at the Olympic Games, aged just 19 at the time.
He qualified for Kampala after finishing second to Molla in the trial race. Mogos Tuemay and 2011 world 10,000m champion Ibrahim Jeilan are two of the more experienced members of the Ethiopian squad and will be aiming to help their country retain the senior men’s team title.