Thursday, February 17, 2011

Men gear up for explosive Uhuru battle

By CHRIS MUSUMBA cmusumba@ke.nationmedia.com

The senior men’s 12km race at Saturday’s explosive National Cross Country Championships can be likened to two military bands marching towards each other, blaring brass and crashing cymbals and all.

Any hint of a grace note at Uhuru Gardens will be drowned in a rude fanfare.

And there will be no love lost as brother rises against brother, team mates ponder the best strike to stop each other as they toss the rule book out of the window.

The race has for a long time been dominated by Kenya Police although Armed Forces now seek to ambush their rivals.

But one man affiliated to neither of the two disciplined forces, Leonard Komon, might just be the dark horse.

First season free of injury

Komon a 15km and 10km world record holder, is in his best form, having clocked 41:13 in Nijmegen in November and 26:44 in Utrecht in September.

The fourth-place finisher in the past two World Cross Country Championships – Amman and Bydgoszcz – is enjoying his first season free of injury.

“I just want to concentrate on the current assignments. The past record will count for nothing if I fail to do well in the national trials,” said Komon.

The 22-year-old injured his groin as he claimed the silver medal in the 2008 World Cross in Edinburgh, Scotland, and for the past two years he has competed only with the help of painkillers.

“Now it has cleared,” he said. “I am better and feel stronger. I have been struggling all along but thanks to God during that time I was able to finish second twice in cross country.”

This year, Komon has won the Elgoibar and Seville races and was second in San Giorgio su Legnano, Italy, while Joseph Ebuya, the World Cross champion, has picked four out of the six races he has competed in.

Eliud Kipchoge, the winner in Edinburgh, is another man to watch. Others are Africa 5,000m silver medallist Vincent Yator, Philemon Kimeli, Sammy Kitwara, Mathew Kisorio, Titus Mbishei and World Junior 5,000m silver medallist John Chepkwony.

Charles Kibet, Mark Kiptoo, Moses Masai, Edwin Soi and Vincent Kiprop Chepkok are other contenders, together with John Chepkowny, who will be fighting it out with Kibet for the jackpot.

Head coach Julius Kirwa, sees Africa 10,000m bronze medallist Geoffrey Mutai as a potential threat to veterans Kipchoge and Ebuya.

The road racer won the Rotterdam Marathon silver in 2:04:55 and Berlin 2:04:55 as well as Kenya Police contest and Iten cross country weekend meeting.

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