It is every athlete's dream to wear Team Kenya jersey, and above all have the national anthem played in their honour.
And four globetrotting stars – Olympic 1,500m champion Faith Chepng’etich, Africa 10,000m queen Alice Aprot, three-time world 1,500m champion Asbel Kiprop and world 10km and 15km record holder Leonard Komon – head to the 42nd IAAF World Cross Country Championships at the Kololo Independent Grounds in Kampala, Uganda, on Sunday with heads held high.
The foursome have a cocktail of exciting tales, having missed the biennial showpiece either by design or default.
Chepng’etich, the two-time world cross country junior champion, saw a career threatening injury rule her out of the 2015 world cross country championships in Guiyang, China –just two days before the team left their training camp at St. Mark's Teachers Training College in Kigari, Embu.
Chepng’etich, who is also the Africa cross country junior and senior champion, was then flown to The Netherlands for specialised treatment.
“I am happy to be part of the world cross country team. I expected to compete as a senior at the world cross in 2015, but unfortunately, I picked an injury. I now hope to perform well in Kampala, where I won the Africa title (as a senior) in 2014,” she said after a training session in Kigari.
If she wins, Chepng’etich will be the third Kenyan to win junior and senior titles at the IAAF World Cross Country Champions after Vivian Cheruiyot (Villamoura in 2000 as junior and Punta Umbria, Spain in 2011 as a senior) and Geoffrey Kamworor in Punta Umbria 2011 as junior and 2013 as a senior in Guiyang, China.
Alice Aprot, the younger sister of 2010 world cross country champion Joseph Ebuya, was disappointed after she was dropped from the team to Guiyang, China, under unclear circumstances.
“I really cried after I was told to go home. But that is behind me now. I want to give my best in Kampala,” said Aprot.
Not bad for a woman, who loved athletics after she dropped out of Munyaka Secondary School near Nyahururu, for lack of school fees.
“In 2010, I made the team to World Junior Championships in Moncton, Canada, where I won bronze. I received some cash rewards from the Government, which helped me pay my school fees in Form One and Form Two,” said Aprot, an alumni of Losokwo Primary School in Nyahururu.
Asbel Kiprop returns to World Cross Country 10 years after the Mombasa meet, while Komon is back after the 2008 contest in Edinburgh, Scotland.