Mombassa beckons

IAAF Chris Turner wrote under the headlines 'The spectre of Ethiopian brilliance hangs over Kenya’s Mombasa ambitions'

"Given the recent history of the World Cross Country Championships, the entry of the 2006 Fukuoka champions Kenenisa Bekele (two titles – men’s short and long course), Tirunesh Dibaba (women’s long course), and Gelete Burka (women’s short course) will have tempered all but the most optimistic of the 1.15 million citizens of this Indian Ocean seaport from making preparations to celebrate home victories on 24 March.

"Understandably, Kenyans want to celebrate the occasion of their hosting of the World Cross Country Championships which will be the first occasion on which Kenya will host an IAAF World Athletics Series event.

"For a country which since the late 1960s has been at the forefront of long distance running particularly cross country, these Championships really do signal the discipline’s spiritual ‘home coming’.

"However, recent history has somewhat dented the pride of the nation whose men provided an unbroken line of 18 (long course) senior team victories from 1986 to 2003 inclusive, and which has produced five-time men’s title winners John Ngugi and Paul Tergat, and Edith Masai, the three-time victor over the women’s short course.

"While Kenya regained their hold on the senior men’s long course title last year, they have not won an individual senior gold medal since Edith Masai’s women’s short course victory in 2004.

"If we look at the women’s long course then we must flip a further ten years back to Hellen Chepngeno’s triumph in Budapest (1994). It’s not much better if we turn to the men’s category either, with Enock Koech (2001 - short) and Paul Tergat (1999 - long) being the last successes."

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