Monday, January 3, 2011

Kenyans flex muscles as new season begins to take shape

AFP Gideon Kipketer from Kenya celebrates after winning the fifth leg of the Lotto CrossCup in Europe on Sunday. Kenyan cross country runners are preparing for the World Cross Country Championships to be held in Punta Umbria, Spain, in March.

AFP Gideon Kipketer from Kenya celebrates after winning the fifth leg of the Lotto CrossCup in Europe on Sunday. Kenyan cross country runners are preparing for the World Cross Country Championships to be held in Punta Umbria, Spain, in March. 

By CHRIS MUSUMBA cmusumba@ke.nationmedia.com

There isn’t much in long distance running that will ruffle Linet Masai’s feathers, but with three unsuccessful bids to win a senior gold medal in cross country, the World 10,000m champion hopes lady luck will smile on her this year.

Masai emerged in 2007 at home to win unexpected gold over the six-kilometre junior women’s distance in Mombasa when Kenya hosted the World Cross Country Championships.

But her promotion to the senior cadre has not been glorious.

On three occasions, she has only felt the texture of bronze and silver.

In Edinburgh in 2008, Masai earned Kenya a bronze medal in the senior women’s eight-kilometre race losing the endurance battle to Ethiopian Tirunesh Dibaba.

She went home, immersed herself in the training, and emerged in 2009 with a reputation greatly enhanced.

She improved to silver in Amman, Jordan, a race her compatriot Florence Kiplagat stole from her feet with the last stride.

But her frustration was turned into jubilation when she stood ground eating up space to win gold in Berlin, World Championship over the 10,000m distance.

But, Masai’s poor kick was to blame again when she failed to stop Emily Chebet claiming the gold in Bydgoszcz, Poland last year. She again had to settle for silver.

Now, Masai is aiming at burnishing the omen and claim her deserved throne as the undisputed champion in cross country in March in Punta Umbria, Spain.

Masai will be heading back to Scotland, to challenge compatriot Vivian Cheruiyot and Tirunesh Dibaba at the Great Edinburgh International Cross Country on Saturday.

“I have to test my body. I have only run one race since November.

“I ran in France and won, but the real test will be in Edinburgh. I will leave on Wednesday for Scotland,” said Masai.

Cheruiyot, who is the world 5,000m champion, remains doubtful as to whether she will try her luck in cross country running this season.

advertisement