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Thursday, April 02, 2009

World Cross Country Champs

Kenya's Cross Country redemption must wait another year

OK, so I know I'm about 5 days late now, but I have the excuse that Cross Country (in fact, just about any running) is not big in Hong Kong, and so I completely missed the World Cross Country championships in Ammann this past weekend.

I'm not going to rehash the race coverage and the analysis - for that, you can check out the LetsRun coverage and the IAAF race reports.

The reason the race is noteworthy is that it was destined be Kenya's big return to the winner's podium in the men's individual race, something that had not happened in 10 years. Kenenisa Bekele is the major obstacle in their path, but his absence from the 2009 left most Kenyans feeling that they would produce the men's champion this time around.

There were reports of motivational speeches from John Ngugi and Paul Tergat, imploring them to seize the opportunity and claim the glory. There was the usual training camp, the expectation and the hype. But there was no champion.

Instead, Gebre Gebremariam won the race in a sprint finish, beating a Ugandan, and then an Eritrean into second and third. Not only a failure to win the individual gold, but the podium eluded the Kenyans.

Some consolation was provided by the fact that they won the team title, although this article reveals how little this actually means to Kenya.

The Kenyan disappointment

The usual post-mortems begin, although I'm sure I'll be reminded by Kenyans that they did have an excellent Olympic Games, claiming more medals than ever before, including two golds in women's races. However, this opportunity, now lost, is another in a long line of disappointments at the World Cross Country Championships.

I would go into detail on what I believe to be the main reasons for this failure. But I'd only be repeating what has already been done, and that can be read at the Lets Run recap of the event. In an excellent, concise analysis, Robert Johnson (site co-founder) discusses the Kenyan camp system and the problem with having the Kenyan trials 5 weeks before the World Champs.

It's worth a read, and is pretty much exactly what I'd put it down to. Whether or not it will change, that's another story...as he points out, bureaucrats must earn a living, something I'm very familiar with from South Africa!

But that was the point of today - an excellent article, saving the time of writing it all again!



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