Africa cross country needs all big names

Thursday February 18 2016

Geoffrey Kamworor celebrates as he crosses the finishing line during the National Cross Country championships senior men's 10km race on February 13, 2016 at Uhuru Gardens, Nairobi. Kamworor displayed a strong finishing performance to win the race in 28:19 seconds as he claimed revenge against his rival and last year's champion Bedan Karoki. PHOTO | CHRIS OMOLLO |

Geoffrey Kamworor celebrates as he crosses the finishing line during the National Cross Country championships senior men's 10km race on February 13, 2016 at Uhuru Gardens, Nairobi. Kamworor displayed a strong finishing performance to win the race in 28:19 seconds as he claimed revenge against his rival and last year's champion Bedan Karoki. PHOTO | CHRIS OMOLLO | NATION MEDIA GROUP

By BARNABAS KORIR
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So our top men and women will not be travelling to the Africa Cross Country Championships in Yaounde, Cameroon next month.

World Cross Country champion Geoffrey Kamworor, silver medallist Bedan Karoki and Africa x-country champion Leonard Barsoton have all pulled out of the African show, citing various reasons.

Kamworor, despite being named in Team Kenya to Yaounde, said he is keen to defend his title at the 21st IAAF World Half Marathon Championships in Cardiff, Britain, on March 25.

His rival Karoki on the other hand, has backed out of the African show to compete in Puerto Rico World Best in two weeks’ time.

Barsoton too said he will not defend his title at the Africa cross country next month but didn’t give reasons.

“I am not ready for Africa cross country. I have my reasons which I won’t disclose. I will return to Japan and come back for 10,000m Olympic trials,” he said.

Vivian Cheruiyot, Kenya’s top women’s racer too withdrew, citing her focus on a few road races.

The exit of the three men leaves Charles Mneria, Phillip Langat and James Rungari, who placed fifth, sixth and seventh to fly Kenya’s flag in west Africa.

DISCOURAGING

While I may agree with their reasons for pulling out, they tend to complicate matters for AK that hosted the event to ostensibly select the best for the African show.

Having been a runner myself, I know the mass exodus is not about the reasons offered but because the Africa Cross Country, in their view, is small.

However, this should not be the case because the only way to build the profile of the African bonanza is to have the heavyweights taking part.

It is very discouraging for the fans to realise that while Africa has the best cross country runners, the participants are actually second rate.

As much as most runners are talking about taking part in the Olympic Games; I doubt road races are the best build-ups for any track mission.

Instead, one stands better chance to make a mark by featuring in cross country.

KENYA'S HOPE

All the same, it all boils down to what an individual wants. And despite the exit of the elite runners, I still believe the so called minnows have what it takes to pull it off at the African show.

We have a good team in the women’s senior race despite Cheruiyot’s absence. I believe Alice Aprot, Beatrice Mutai, Sheila Chepkirui, Daisy Jepkemei and Janet Kisa will excel.

The junior sides also look strong. But I think it is about time top athletes were made to hand in their timetables early to enable Athletics Kenya to plan.

It is not fair for any athlete to win a race and then immediately declare that he will not feature in a certain event.

That’s the reason I would like to see those not keen with the Olympic Games to declare their intentions now instead of waiting for the last minute.

Marathoners especially are notorious for the late pull-outs; for one reason or the other - and they need to be sorted out now.

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