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Former winners must watch out for Koech


Mark Butler for IAAF

23 March 2001 - The men's world short course cross country championship here on Saturday will be graced the two runners who between them have won all three titles so far in this event. John Kibowen (gold in 1998 & 2000) and Ben Limo (1999) are among the entries, as is Sammy Kipketer, who was a close second last year in Vilamoura. However, the Kenyan team at the Wellington Hippodrome will be headed by a man far less experienced, Enock Koech.

It was Koech (20) who won the Kenyan four kilometre trial race in Nairobi last month, ahead Kibown, Kipketer and Limo. Before that race the tall (1.85) Nandi was best known as a moderate 1500m runner, having clocked 3:40.5 in the semi-finals of last year's Kenyan Championships before placing 10th in the final. One month earlier, he had linked up Jos Hermans' Global group and started training in Chepkorio under the eye of fellow Nandi Patrick Sang, along with the likes of Richard Limo and Bernard Barmasai.

In January 2001 he decided to contest the four kilometre race organised by the Kenyan AAA at the IAAF/IOC Kip Keino High Altitude Training Centre near Eldoret. A good second place in that race prompted him to enter for the National Championship in Nairobi on February 24.

"He didn't start fast," explained Global's Michel Boeting. "He decided to stay in about 20th place. He was eighth after the first kilometre, third with a kilometre to go, then sprinted past Kibowen and Kipketer in the last 400m."

Even if Koech repeats this win in Ostend, he will stick to the shorter distances for the rest of the year. "It will be good for him to do this," said Boeting. "It seems he has a capacity for distance races. He might be able to do a good 5000, but he wants to develop at 1500m, which is what he'll do this summer. Saturday will show us if the Kenyan national result was a one-off."

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