Stage set for an epic clash at World Cross Country Tour


Celliphine Chespol on her way to winning 3000m in the Kip Keino Classic-World Athletics Continental Tour 2021 at Kasarani Stadium in Nairobi on September 18, 2021. [Stafford Ondego, Standard]

Kenyan athletes who booked top places at the National Cross Country Championships last month are renewing rivalry again on Saturday at the Memorial Agnes Tirop race.

Top 30 athletes at the National Cross Country Championships staged on January 22 at the lush Lobo Village in Eldoret, have been entered in the World Tour, signaling a thrilling battle for honors.

The Memorial Agnes Tirop Cross Country Tour which is the last of 14 World Cross Country Tour series will also be taking place in the same venue (Lobo Village).

Local athletes will square it out with a strong international cross country fields that comprise four-time World cross country champion Geoffrey Kamworor and world record holder in 5000m and 10,000m, Letesenbet Gidey of Ethiopia.

Nicholas Kimeli who finished fourth in 5000m at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and former World Under-2- 5000m champion Edward Zakayo, who finished fourth and fifth respectively at the National Cross Championships and who were among global stars that were favored for a podium finish in the senior men’s category (at the national championships), are meeting once more at the World Tour.

Athletics Kenya has also entered Kennedy Kiprop and Vincent Kiprop who finished second and third in the national championships for the global showpiece.

Also included in the national field is former World Under-20 10,000m champion Rhonex Kipruto and 5,000m athlete Michael Kibet.

Kenyan athletics exports such as Albert Rop of Bahrain, Turkish duo of Aras Kaya and Hilal Yego will be seeking to challenge their local counterparts for the senior men’s title. The Turkish duo have been training in Kenya in preparation for the Sunday clash.

In the women’s 10km category, big names that triumphed during the national cross country meet will be challenging big shots from across the world in a course they are familiar with.

Joyce Chepkemoi, Celliphine Chespol, Faith Cherono and Sandrafelis Chebet among others, who placed first, third, fourth and fifth in the January National Cross Country championships.

Alice Aprot, the 10,000m African champion and former World Under-20 5000m champion Beatrice Chebet have been tasked with the assignment of facing off Gidey and other world class athletes.

World 500m silver medallist Margaret Chelimo who was second in the national championships is in the international entry, just like Kamworor.

A strong field of international women athletes such as former world cross country champion Senbere Teferi of Ethiopia, Kazakhstani Norah Jeruto, Ukrainian duo of Yuliya Shmatenko and Victoria Kolchyk were also entered.

Two days ago, local organizers led by Course Director Ibrahim Hussein said Lobo village was ready to host the global showpiece.

 “We are encouraging athletes to visit and have a feel of the exciting course at least two days before the race day so that they have a feel of what they expect on Saturday.

It is important for them to look at the course and tighten their shoe laces well to avoid losing them like it was witnessed during the National Cross Country Championships,” Hussein, a three-time Boston Marathon winner said.

A Local Organising Committee member Abraham Mutai said a tough competition is expected during the World Tour.

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