Amman, JordanThough the official Start List for the 37th IAAF World Cross Country Championships, Amman, Jordan (Sat 28 March) will not be finally confirmed until after the Technical Meeting on Friday, the Entry List has been available since Tuesday (24).
We have already comprehensively previewed the four races which will take place this Saturday (see ‘Related Content’ under photograph) but closer inspection of the entry list has, thanks to the keen eye of statistician Mark Butler, revealed some other useful data:
>>First time competing at the World Cross Country Championships
Iraq, Oman and Somalia. It should be noted that Somalia have entered before (in 2007) but then did not start.
>>No defending senior champions
Without Kenenisa Bekele and Tirunesh Dibaba, it's the first time since 1976 that there is no defending champion in both senior races.
>>Athlete on Amman Entry list with most previous participations
The entrant with most previous appearances is Joël Bourgeois CAN, this would be his 13th run at the World XC.
>>Athlete with the longest streak of appearances
José Luis Blanco ESP has the longest continuous streak of appearances at the World XC, if he competes it will be for the ninth time in succession, every year since 2001.
>>A walker and a runner
The junior women entrants include Aleksandra Kudryashova RUS who was second in the 2006 World Cup junior 10km Race Walk. But we know already that she is a runner because she was in the World Junior 3000m Steeplechase final last year in Bydgoszcz.
Could we find a traditional European cross country course on Saturday?
In a previous story we drew reference to the fact that while much of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan which spans the southern part of the Syro-Arabian desert down to the Gulf of Aqaba is covered by desert, the north-western area in which the capital city of Amman is situated is in part of what is known as the Fertile Crescent.
However, the relatively lush surroundings of the Bisharat Golf Course which lies south of Amman and plays host to the championships, in recent days has taken on the appearance of a traditional European cross country venue as heavy rains have turned the ground surface into the consistency of the sticky semolina type variant of couscous which is such a popular dish locally. And very delicious it is too! But whether the athletes will find such conditions under-foot as appetising is a different question.
However, with a full day of sunshine today (Thursday) and only a chance of light rain on Friday evening (27) the organisers are confident that the competition route on race day itself will not turn into a quagmire of mud.
Chris Turner for the IAAF