Their gruelling training on the slopes of Mt Kenya done and dusted, Kenya’s team to Saturday’s IAAF World Cross Country Championships in Amman leaves on Tueday for the Jordanian capital seeking to reclaim individual titles that eluded them last year in Edinburgh.
For 25 years, Kenya has dominated the annual competition but, bizarrely, the main individual titles have been hard to come by.
It is 15 years since Kenya won its first and only gold medal in the senior women’s eight-kilometre race courtesy of Hellen Chepng’eno in Budapest.
Meanwhile, the last time Kenya won the senior men’s 12-kilometre gold was in Belfast 10 years ago through five-times champion, Paul Tergat.
Head coach Julius Kirwa, in his seventh straight year as head coach, is very much aware of these disturbing statistics.
He is confident of a repeat performance of the 1994 Budapest championships when Kenya swept all of the individual gold medals through William Sigei (senior men), Hellen Chepng’eno (senior women), Philip Mosima (junior men) and Sally Barsosio (junior women).
To help him get the job done, Kirwa will be looking at husband and wife pair of Moses Mosop and Florence Kiplagat to lead their team-mates.
The couple won the senior titles at the trials for the Jordan competition. Another pair that will be looked upon to deliver is 2006 junior champion Pauline Korikwiang and her sister Delvin Meringor who will run in the senior women’s and junior women’s categories respectively.
Mark Kiptoo, the World Military Games 10,000 metres champion, at 32, is keen to secure his first gold at the championships.
As Kenya’s team captain, he shoulders the huge responsibility pressure and his vast experience will be a bonus. The team has been training for close to a month at the Kigari Teachers Training College in Embu.
The team leaves at 7.15 pm Tuesday night.
The Kenyan squad to Amman: Men’s 12km: Moses Mosop, Mathew Kisorio, Mark Kiptoo, Linus Chumba, Mangata Ndiwa, Leonard Komon.
Men’s 8km: John Kemboi, Paul Tanui, Japhet Korir, John Chepkwony, Titus Mbishei, Charles Bett Chepkurui.
Women 8km: Florence Kiplagat, Iness Chenonge, Linet Masai, Linet Chepkurui, Ann Karindi, Pauline Korikwiang
Women’s 6km: Mercy Cherono, Hilda Chepkemoi, Delvin Meringor, Jackline Chebii, Faith Chepngetich, and Nelly Chebet.
Coaches: Julius Kirwa, Johnstone Mwithiga, David Leting.