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Preview of the IAAF World Cross Country Championships, Kampala 2017

With less than 2 days to go to the IAAF World Cross Country Championships, Kampala 2017, Ducor Sports takes an insight into possibly the biggest edition of the Championships since 2006.

At least 557 athletes from 60 teams are expected to compete in the Ugandan capital, Kampala, on 26 March to surpass the figures from the past six editions.

The edition has three categories; U-20 men, U-20 women, and mixed relay – the latest innovation category added to the oldest IAAF World Athletics Series event.

Each team comprises of two men and two women, who will each run a two-kilometer circuit.

U-20 MEN

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Timothy Toroitich will captain Team Uganda. (Getty Images)

The race that will likely attract the most attention is the U-20 men category where the likes of World U-18 3000m champion Richard Kimunyan Yator, 2016 World U-20 steeplechase winner Amos Kirui, World U-20 5000m bronze medalist Wesley Ledama, African U-20 cross-country silver medalist Ronald Kiprotich Kirui, World U-20 5000m champion Selemon Barega, Tefera Mosisa, Selemon Berihun and Timothy Toroitich – who won convincingly in Alcobendas last November – will be taking part.

Despite most participants having limited international experience, it is on such occasions that young talent has made its mark making it hard to predict any obvious winners.

One however cannot deny that cross-country superpowers, Kenya and Ethiopia have the most advantage of being in the lead pack.


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Letesenbet Gidey wins the junior women’s race at the IAAF World Cross Country Championships, Guiyang 2015 (Getty Images)

In a contest largely between two countries for the past 25 editions with Kenya taking 15 over Ethiopia’s 10, all eyes will be on the teams’ distance runners.

Ethiopia will be led by Letesenbet Gidey who is defending her title. In preparation for this edition, the 19-year-old romped to a 20-second victory at the Ethiopian Cross Country Championships last month.

A gold medal in Kampala will make her just the fourth woman in history to win back-to-back U-20 titles at the World Cross, joining Viola Kibiwott, Genzebe Dibaba, and Faith Kipyegon.

Gidey will be accompanied by Fotyen Tesfay, who was fourth in the 3000m at last year’s World U-20 Championship, along with teammates Zeynaba Yimer, Hawi Feyisa, and Wude Kefale.

Kenya’s to watch are; World U-18 and U-20 champion in the steeplechase and U-20 runner-up at this year’s Kenya Cross Country Championship, Celliphine Chepteek Chespol, along with Sandra Tuei, Emmaculate Chepkirui, Sheila Chelangat and Joyline Cherotich.

Uganda will be led by Peruth Chemutai, a 2016 World U-20 finalist and 2016 Olympian in the steeplechase. In January she pounced to victory at the Kololo Independence Grounds, winning the national junior title by 19 seconds.


The Kampala edition will mark the start of the inaugural mixed relay category which will kick off during the action-packed afternoon program in Kampala.

The eight-kilometer race will comprise of teams composed of two men and two women, who will each run a two-kilometer loop, in any order they wish with runners handing over a wrist band that serves as the baton through a 20-metre stretch exchange, or takeover zone.

Quartets from a dozen countries have entered but the maiden contest is expected to be a fierce battle between the world’s two most dominant distance-running rivals, Kenya and Ethiopia, whose relay squads will arrive in Kampala powered by two of the best 1500m runners in history.

For the Kenyan quartet, Asbel Kiprop, a three-time World and 2008 Olympic champion will team with Beatrice Chepkoech, the fourth-place finisher in the 3000m steeplechase at last year’s Olympic Games.

Winfred Nzisa Mbite, World U-20 Championship finalist last year and 800m/1500m runner, Bernard Kipkorir Koros will form the male team.

Running for Ethiopia, Genzebe Dibaba, the World 1500m indoors and out world record-holder, also gunning for an eighth medal at these championships, will team with rising star Yomif

Kejelcha, the 3000m 2014 World U-20 champion and World Indoor champion, 17-year-old Welde Tufa, a fourth-place finisher at the 2015 World U-18 Championship, and Bone Cheluke form the other group.

Hosts Uganda will bring a relatively experienced quartet to the line-up which includes 1500m World University Games champion, Dorcus Ajok, Olympic 1500m finalist Ronald Musagala, national 800m record-holder, Winnie Nanyondo, and 800m runner Geofrey Ruto.

The US squad includes Olympic 5000m silver medalist Paul Chelimo, who could also figure in the medal hunt.



Featured photo: Getty Images

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