Kenyans are ready for Belfast
Omulo Okoth for the IAAF in Nairobi
Superstar Daniel Komen and John Kibowen are out of Kenyan team for this years World Cross Country Championships in Belfast. But coach James Kibet is simmering with confidence and insists the Kenyans are going for their 14th successive overall team title.
"They are in great shape. Preparations for this years event are a lot better than last years. Moreover, the conditions in which have been training this year are terribly muddy which will enhance our chances during the competition," Kibet said from Embu on the foot of Mt Kenya, some 200km east of Nairobi.
Kibowen and Komen, Champion and runner-up in the four-kilometre race last year in Marrakech, could not make the Kenyan team this year due to injuries.
Another notable absentee in the team is world outdoor 10,000m champion Sally Barsosio. She suffered serious injuries in a recent car accident, which has ruled her out of competitive athletics this year.
But with four-time World Champion Paul Kibii Tergat and Kenyan champion of three years, Paul Kipselgich Koech, and a strong back up, the Kenyans are confident of a successful overall title defence.
Thomas Nyariki, buoyed by the presence in the team of wife Jackline Maranga, is probably the third strongest athlete in the senior mens side. A great fighter, Nyariki will lead an early attack as Tergat and Koech check the Ethiopians and Moroccans.
Also in this years team are Wilson Boit, Christopher Kelong and Ishmael Kirui. Other young guns out to gain experience include Patrick Ivuti, Evans Ruto and Joshua Chelanga who complete the senior mens team. The senior short race has an equally strong line-up despite the absence of Komen and Kibowen. Benjamin Limo, fourth in the Kenyan championships, leads a strong team capable of handling the Kenyans strongest rivals - the Moroccans and Ethiopians - any day.
Other team members are James Koskei, Daniel Gachara, Paul Kosgei, John Kosgei and Stephen Rerimoi.
John Kosgei, who upset Bernard Barmasais gold medal serach during the Commonwealth games 3000m steeplechase, is a powerful multi-faceted athlete. He has shown great consistency since emerging as a reliable pace maker for Daniel Komen throughout the 1996 European circuit when the great Kenyan set a world 3000m record in Rieti.
Susan Chepkemei, placed 12th in Marrakech, won the four-km race at the Kenyan Championships but will go for the 8-km race. Also in the race are experienced Jane Omoro and Jane Ngotho, Leah Malot and Agnes Kirop. Kirop ran the junior race last year. But with five wins in Kenya this year, including the national and IAAF Cross Challenge race in Nairobi, she has switched to the senior race.
Maranga, fifth in the standings of the 1998 Golden League/Grand Prix Series at 1500m leads an equally strong four-km race which includes Naomi Mugo, Elizabeth Cheruiyot, Teresia Wanjiku and Jeruto Kiptum.
Kiptum was second in Marrakech in the six-km race and was fourth in the Kenyan Championships this year.
Richard Limo, runner-up in the junior category in Marrakech last year behind Ethiopian Milion Wolde, and this years Kenyan champion returns to the cross countrys world stage following a consistent 1998 season which culminated in a Commonwealth Games bronze medal in Kuala Lumpur. With him in the team are Sammy Kipketer, Albert Chepkurui, Kipchumba Mitei, Christopher Soget and Kipkorir Lebo.
Young Vivian Cheruiyot, fifth last year in Marrakech, leads a team of girl-rookies all eager to justify their call-up. Besides Cheruiyot who made her debut last year after two previous failed attempts due to her young age (she was 12 in 1998), the rest of the juniors only emerged during the Great Rift Valley Championships and the Kenyan nationals.
The Kenyan Teams for Belfast 99
SENIOR MEN (12km) Paul Koech (captain), Paul Tergat, Tom Nyariki, Evans Ruto, Patrick Ivuti and Joshua Chelanga.
JUNIOR MEN (8km) Richard Limo, Sammy Kipketer, Albert Chepkurui, Kipchumba Mitei, Christopher Soget and Kipkorir Lebo.
SENIOR WOMEN (8km) Leah Malot, Susan Chepkemei, Jane Omoro, Jane Ngotho and Agnes Kirop.
JUNIOR WOMEN (6km) Vivian Cheruiyot, Debora Chepkiror, Jackline Chemuok Rionoripo, Pamela Chemtai Kiyara, Flomena Cheyech Daniel and Elizabeth Chepkanan Rumoko.
SENIOR MEN (4km) Benjamin Limo, James Koskei, Daniel Gachara, Paul Kosgei and John Kosgei.
SENIOR WOMEN (4km) Naomi Mugo, Elizabeth Cheruiyot Chemweno, Jackline Maranga, Teresia Wanjiku and Jeruto Kiptum.