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Defectors, traitors bite the dust

Sunday March 29 2009

Titus Mbishei, Ayele Abshero and Moses Kibet display their medals during the 37th World Cross Country Championships in Amman, Jordan. Most of the former Kenyan athletes who have switched allegiance and are now running for other nations failed to shine in the global contest. Photo/MOHAMMED AMIN

Titus Mbishei, Ayele Abshero and Moses Kibet display their medals during the 37th World Cross Country Championships in Amman, Jordan. Most of the former Kenyan athletes who have switched allegiance and are now running for other nations failed to shine in the global contest. Photo/MOHAMMED AMIN 

By CHRIS MUSUMBA in AMMAN, Jordan

There was a mixed performance by former Kenyans now running for other countries at the 37th World Cross Country Championships in Amman, Jordan.

European Cross Country champion Hilda Kibet, sixth at the senior women’s 8km race and now running for the Netherlands, was the only top-placed former Kenyan.

World 3,000m steeplechase record holder Saif Saeed Shaheen was a disappointing 13th (35:28) in the senior men’s 12km race.

Both athletes are however, not keen to pursue cross country and only competed to gauge their fitness ahead of the track season and summer marathons.

Studied abroad

Kibet, who had pitched camp in Iten since running in Lagos in February, said she was not disappointed with her position as she wanted to test her endurance and speed before launching her debut in the marathon later.

“I will not be running at the World Championships in Berlin, but I have set my target to get into marathon. At 28, I believe it is the right time for me to shift gears. The experience I have gained in cross country and road races is enough to propel me to further success,” she said.

Kibet, who only started her athletics career when she got a chance to study abroad, in the Netherlands, got inspiration from her cousin, World Half Marathon champion Lornah Kiplagat. Both athletes are now representing Holland.

In a race that was won by Kenya’s Florence Kiplagat (26:13), Kibet looked strong at the start but could not get the extra energy to push for the title when the sprint started with about 200m of a steep elevation to the finish line.

“I gave it my best. The course was tough as well as the other athletes. Now I’ll rest and scheme on my marathon campaign. I want to run at the Amsterdam marathon this year,” she said.

Edwin Chebii of Bahrain was 28th in 24:49 in the junior men’s race. Compatriot Alemu Bekele was 26th in 24:44, while Isaac Kemboi Chelimo, also running for Bahrain, was 41st in 25:31.

Keeping up pace

The race was won by Ayele Abshero of Ethiopia in 23:26. Bahrain is coached by Kenyan Boniface Tiren.

In the senior men’s race, Shaheen faded off after keeping up pace with the rest of the team until the 11km mark and was forced to settle for the 13th position with compatriot Ahmad Hassan Abdulla and Felix Kikwae coming in 18th and 20th positions respectively.

Another Kenyan export, Gladys Jerotich Kibiwott (Bahrain) was 15th in the junior women’s 6km race in 21:25. Ethiopia’s Genzebe Dibaba won the race in 20:14, beating Kenyan Mercy Cherono (20:17), while Jackline Chepngeno was third in 20:27.

Another import in the race, World 1,500m champion Maryam Yusuf Jamal of Bahrain (a former Moroccan), was ninth in 27:00.

On Sunday, Athletics Kenya secretary David Okeyo congratulated the team for its performance.

“I’m very happy with their performance,” Okeyo, who did not travel to Amman after losing a relative, said.

The team arrives back home at 6.30 am on Monday and will be hosted for breakfast at Riadha House before the athletes are released to travel back to their homes.

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