The growing list of athletes with Kenyan origins in major championships seems to psyche up the national team ahead of the 42nd IAAF World Cross Country Championships.
The sudden switch of nationalities has complicated the equation for the Kenyan stars, who are often known to compete as a team –especially when competing in international races.
And with the championships set for next Sunday at Kololo Independence Grounds in Kampala, world cross country champion Geoffrey Kamworor, Japan-based Leonard Barsoton and Nicholas Kosimbei, the 2014 world junior 10,000m bronze medallist, have a mountain to climb against a host of Ugandan, American and Ethiopian stars.
Joshua Cheptegei, the 2014 world junior 10,000m champion, leads the Ugandan line-up alongside Philip Kipyego, Abdallah Timothy Toroitich, London Olympics marathon winner Stephen Kiprotich and Stephen Kisa.
Interestingly, the ‘Ngebe’ (let’s break away) call does not do the trick any more as the Ugandans, Americans and Turks understand this phrase too well.
It is the same story with the US team that has Samuel Chelanga, Stanley Kebenei, Shadrack Kipchirchir and Leonard Korir.
Olympic 5,000m Paul Chelimo, who comes from Iten, will lead the American mixed relay squad.
It will be a spectacular sight to behold when Kiprotich and Kamworor, the duo managed by Dutch agent Jos Hermens at the Global Sports Communications in Kaptagat, lock horns.
“Kiprotich is my friend. We usually share jokes. He has beaten us twice in (London Olympics and Moscow worlds) marathon championships and I think we should revenge in his backyard,” said Kamworor.
“This race will be stiff. The pace will be high, no doubt, but we have the required experience,” said Kamworor, who is a two-time world half marathon champion.
Kosimbei, who comes from Keringet in Nakuru County, has a beef with Uganda’s favourite Joshua Cheptegei.
“He beat me in Portland, USA in 2014. I am now in a good shape and our team effort will help us a lot,” said Kosimbei, who will be making his debut at the world cross country.
Japan-based Kosimbei has a 10km world leading time this season and braces to take on the Kenyan ‘exports’. “We will fight it out with them. I have prepared well in Japan,” he said. Barsoton, another Japan-based athlete from Kapisaga Village in Nandi County, said he is ready for the Kampala race.