Kenyan stars ready for World Cross showdown in Belgrade

Kenya's Beatrice Chebet wins the senior women's race at the World Athletics Cross Country Championships Bathurst 23 on February 18 2023. [World Athletics]

With defending champions and former medallists starring, the stellar cast promises one of the toughest cross country contest in recent years.

Speed and endurance will be tested to the limit at the World Cross Country Championships happening on Saturday in Belgrade, Serbia.

The Kenyan line-up demonstrates the country’s desire to top the charts, once again.

The cross country powerhouse is looking to defend its 2023 overall title.

Since 1973, Kenyan stars have brought home a total of 334 medals. Neighbours Ethiopia has bagged 285.

We look at some of the Kenyan top guns to watch at the Park of Friendship course – the grassland to the east of Belgrade.

Beatrice Chebet

As the defending champion, Chebet will be leading Kenyan charges in the senior women’s category.

Last year, she won a dramatic race in Bathurst when she sprinted past a faltering Letesenbet Gidey of Ethiopia just metres to the tape.

The 5km World Road Running champion ended 2023 on a high after running 14:13, smashing the women’s world 5km record at the Cursa dels Nassos, in Barcelona on December 31.

She won the world junior women’s cross country race at the 2019 edition in Aarhus.

Lilian Kasait Rengeruk who was second when Chebet ran the fastest mark in 5km is also eyeing glory in tomorrow’s world cross country showdown.

Agnes Ngetich

She won the bronze medal in last year’s edition and is taking to the start line tomorrow, her top form.

Ngetich set the 10km world record with an astonishing 28:46 in Valencia in January.

In Belgrade, she has the company of training partner Emmaculate Anyango who has been playing the second fiddle in a number of races the duo has participated in in recent months, including at the world breaking moment and during the national cross country.

Sabastian Sawe

He is flying the country’s flag in the men’s senior category. Sawe made a name through his cross country exploits. The 29-year-old star secured a number of victories in cross country, a momentum he sustained, rising to a national champion.

He bagged a gold medal at last year’s World half marathon in Riga before booking his ticket at the national cross country in Ruiru in style.

Last year, he took the titles Adizero Road to Records 10km and the Berlin Half Marathon among other races.

His sprint finish at the World Cross Country national trials was spectacular.

Ishmael Kipkurui

At just 19 years old, Kipkurui is transitioning to the senior ranks.

Kipkurui won a gold medal in last year’s World Cross Country in Bathurst, Australia and he will be challenging his seniors with his sights set on a medal.

He is also the national Under-20 record holder in the two mile run after coming second behind Olympic 1500m champion, Norwegian Jakob Ingebrigtsen at the 2023 Meeting de Paris.

Benson Kiplangat

Kiplangat is the 2021 World Under-20 5000m champion. The 20-year-old chalked up a win at the 10km Ibiza in Spain and was the runner-up at the All Japan Corporate Teams Athletics Championships 10,000m.

He will be teaming up with Sawe, Olympian Nicholas Kimeli, Samwel Chebolei and Gideon Rono.

Under-20

Samuel Kibathi, the junior national cross country winner and African Under-20 cross-country champion Gideon Kipngetich will be carrying Kenya’s hopes in the men’s Under-20 show.

Nancy Cherop will be leading the country’s junior women in the hunt for medals. The golden girl from Mount Elgon made history in 2023 after bagging gold in the 800m, 1,500m and 3,000m races at Africa Under-18 and Under-20 championships in Ndola, Zambia.

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