Star names chase glory at World Cross in Belgrade

Kenya's Beatrice Chebet after winning this year's women's 10km race at the World Athletics cross country championships in Bathurst, Australia. [Xinhua]

Today marks the moment that athletics stars will not just be showcasing their impressive CVs, but will have a point to prove as they hunt for medals.

By 1pm, the big shots will have converged in readiness to write history at the World Cross Country Championships in Belgrade, Serbia.

Kenya will be fielding its brilliant squad as it seeks to defend the 2023 team title in today’s showpiece taking place at the Park of Friendship in Belgrade.

Mouth-watering clashes are likely to make the Easter holiday a memorable one.

The Under-20 women competition will start at 1pm East African time today followed by junior men at 1:35pm.

Mixed relay will be run from 2:15pm ahead of the senior women race at 2:45pm. The senior men’s showdown starts at 3:30pm.

World Half  Marathon champion Sabastian Sawe, the man leading the Kenyan onslaught will have to square it out with defending champion Jacob Kiplimo of Uganda, along with countryman Joshua Cheptegei, the 2019 World Cross Country champion, who also claimed bronze in Bathurst last year, as well as Berihu Aregawi, the Ethiopian who won silver in 2023.

The country’s senior men missed out on podium in Bathurst, and the squad also comprising Nicholas Kipkorir, Ishmael Rokitto Kipkurui, Benson Kiplangat, Samwel Chebolei Masai and Gideon Kipkertich Rono have been tasked with delivering medals in the category.

The women’s senior women’s race is also promising to be a fierce contest, with the Kenyan contingent eyeing podium dominance.

Expectant athletics enthusiasts will be crossing their fingers as defending champion Beatrice Chebet and 2023 bronze medallist Agnes Ngetich, the 10km road world record breaker lead the senior women charge in the title defence.

The Kenyan women will be facing Ethiopian stars such as Girmawit Gebrzihair, who has a half marathon personal best of 1:04:14 she recorded at the 2022 Ras Al Khaimah.

Other compatriots are Tadelech Bekele, Sisay Meseret Gola, Bertukan Welde, and Mebrat Gidey.

Kenyan exports, Norah Jeruto and Daisy Jepkemei representing Kazakhstan are in the senior women’s mix.

In the mixed relay, three of the four winning team members at last year’s Bathurst showdown are taking part in today’s show in Belgrade.

World 800m silver medallist Emmanuel Wanyonyi is anchoring the mixed relay team, which is the defending champion.

He won the 800m gold at the world Under-20 800m in 2021 and went on to finish second at the 2023 Budapest World Championships.

Wanyonyi is also the Diamond League champion and Rising Star award winner, and will be looking to add another medal to his collection.

Reynold Cheruiyot, who secured silver in the U20 men’s race in Bathurst last year and won the 2022 world U20 1500m title and the 2021 world Under-20 1500m champion Purity Chepkirui among others add quality to the relay team.

Some youngsters among them Nancy Cherop, Diana Chepkemoi and Gideon Kipngetich who were due to fly the country’s flag in the junior categories had not secured visas.

An Athletics Kenya official said the Serbian embassy had not given reasons for the visa delays.

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