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Kenya ready for a clean sweep

Friday March 27 2009

Left to right: Stephanie Twell, the world junior 1,500 metres and European junior cross country champion (Britain), Kenya’s team captain Mark Kiptoo, former world short course cross country champion Gelete Burka (Ethiopia), European cross champion Hilda Kibet (Netherlands), US junior cross country champion German Fernandez (USA) and world steeplechase record holder Saif Saaeed Shaheen (Qatar) are welcomed to a press conference at the Alhussein Sports City on Friday.  Photos/MOHAMMED AMIN

Left to right: Stephanie Twell, the world junior 1,500 metres and European junior cross country champion (Britain), Kenya’s team captain Mark Kiptoo, former world short course cross country champion Gelete Burka (Ethiopia), European cross champion Hilda Kibet (Netherlands), US junior cross country champion German Fernandez (USA) and world steeplechase record holder Saif Saaeed Shaheen (Qatar) are welcomed to a press conference at the Alhussein Sports City on Friday. Photos/MOHAMMED AMIN 

By Chris Musumba in Amman, Jordan

Saturday is exactly 10 years since Paul Tergat last won the senior men’s 12 kilometre race in Belfast. It is painful history that Kenya’s team to the 37th World Cross Country Championships is keen to erase and reclaim lost glory.

Kenya’s overall team captain, Mark Kiptoo, on Friday issued a stern warning to pretenders to the throne that Kenya was back to secure its place as the best cross country nation in the world.

“We have watched as our brothers from Ethiopia ruined our party. Now this has to stop and tomorrow (Saturday), we will see a new page in the history of the championship written in favour of Kenya,” said Kiptoo.

While Kiptoo was addressing journalists, Kenya’s national champion Moses Mosop, nicknamed Engine Kubwa (big engine) was warming up, ready to charge at the opponents on Saturday at the Bisharat Golf Course in Amman, Jordan.

“I tried in Mombasa, but I was spiked and ran with one shoe. I have seen the course here, looked at the entry list and now the hour has come for me to show why I am called Engine Kubwa,” he said.

Record six times

For a decade, Kenyan athletes watched as their rivals from Eritrea, Belgium and Ethiopia dominated the 12km race.
Ethiopia’s Kenenisa Bekele has claimed the world title a record six times.

But For the first time since 2001, the Ethiopian will not be the centre of attention, out of today’s race with injury. Either a Kenyan or Eritrea’s Zersenay Tadese will win or there will be a new name on the roll of honour.

Bekele’s domination was broken only by Tadese’s triumph in 2007 in Mombasa.

Leonard Komon, runner-up to Bekele last year and Mosop, silver medallist behind Tadese in 2007, are obvious contenders, and so is Mathew Kisorio, Linus Chumba and Mangata Ndiwa all making their debut at the senior event.

Ethiopia’s oldest team member is 24-year-old Gebre Gebremariam and lack of experience might cost them.

Gebremariam, who won the junior title in 2002, placed third in 2003 and second in 2004.

He has warmed up well for Amman, though, winning the Ethiopian trials in which Tariku Bekele - also out injured today - was fourth behind Feyissa Lelisa and Tadese Tola.

Other top contenders today include former Kenyans running for Qatar and Bahrain Saif Saeed Shaheen, Ahmed Hassan Abdullah, Mubarak Hassan Shami, Essa Ismail Rashed, Felix Kikwai Kibore, Gamal Belal Salem and Musa Amer Obaid.

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