Updated 29 July 2011
Geofrey KUSURO, Uganda (3000m, 5000m, Cross Country)
Born: 12 February 1989, Bukwo
Height: 1.68m Weight 51kg
Only a few years ago, Geofrey Kusuro was like any other ordinary runner in Uganda. But following his gold medal at the 2009 World Mountain Running Championships, the 22-year-old athlete needs no introduction anymore. He has joined an elite class of athletes that command celebrity status in the country.
The third born of nine (six girls, three boys), Kusuro is thankful to God for having given him the running talent. “I like running more than anything else,” he said.
Kusuro went to Mutushet Primary School but never had any interest in running until 2002 when he was in form five. “Our area is very mountainous,” he said. “You can’t walk 100m without meeting a hill. I think that is what helped me while growing up. Every time I woke up late for school, I had to go running non-stop.”
It took Kusuro quite some time to make a breakthrough but, when it finally came, there was no looking back. “I always wanted to compete on the national level but got no chance – maybe because I was too tiny,” he noted. In 2005, Kusuro made his debut at the National Cross Country Championships and put up a display that surprised many. “I finished fourth and couldn’t stop celebrating,” revealed Kusuro. He was named in Uganda’s junior team for the World Cross Country Championships in St. Etienne/St. Galmier, France, where he finished 49th. “I had never finished in such a position and that’s when I realised that international competitions are not easy,” he noted.
Kusuro transformed his cross country form to the track and came close to winning a national championship gold medal but was beaten into second place by Moses Aliwa in the 5000m at Uganda’s biggest stadium, Namboole. “I ran 14:02 in that race but I should have done better,” he said. “I never felt tired at the end.” At the 2006 National Cross Country Championships, Kusuro was beaten into second place by the in-form Benjamin Kiplagat. But Kusuro was certainly on the rise.
When Kusuro went to the 2006 World Cross in Fukuoka, Japan, he hit his target of breaking into the top 20 by finishing 14th. A few months later, Kusuro realised his dream of becoming national champion when he clocked 13:49.1 to win the 5000m at Bugembe stadium. He later finished ninth at the World Junior Championships, in Beijing.
With his confidence skyrocketing, Kusuro defeated defending champion Kiplagat to take the junior title at the 2007 National Cross held in Sironko, eastern Uganda. He had hoped to win a medal at the World Cross Country Championships in Mombasa but the baking heat put paid to his ambitions, and Kusuro placed 10th. After running in a couple of road races in Italy and France, Kusuro was aiming to compete at the World Championships in Osaka, Japan, but failed to make the grade.
“I didn’t get enough track races to help me qualify,” Kusuro said. “I was in good shape and nothing should have stopped me. I got so disappointed.” Kusuro then turned his guns to mountain running, winning the World Mountain Running Trophy 8km junior gold medal, in Ovronnaz, Switzerland, in September. “Mountain running is a very interesting event,” Kusuro said. “At first I had two thoughts about it but I decided to take on the challenge.”
2008 was a fairly good year for the then 19-year-old. First, he once again overpowered Kiplagat to win the National Cross Country title and finished eighth at the World Cross in Edinburgh. At the FBK Games, in Hengelo in May, Kusuro finished sixth in a personal best 13:18.38 over 5000m to qualify for the Olympic Games.
Before heading to the Olympics, Kusuro narrowly missed out on a medal at the World Junior Championships in Bydgoszcz, Poland, in July, finishing fourth (13:31.80). Although he failed to make the final in Beijing, being at the Olympics left a lasting impression. “Competing at the Olympics is one of the best things that has happened in my life,” Kusuro said. He was 11th (13:50.50) in his heat. At the end of November, Kusuro won silver in the Obudu Ranch International Mountain Race, in Nigeria, to cap an impressive year.
After turning senior, Kusuro was looking to upset Moses Kipsiro at the 2009 National Cross Country Championships held on 14 February, in Kapchorwa. Chasing Kipsiro in the 12km race proved futile and he finished half a minute down in second place. “It was a good race against a very tough opponent,” Kusuro said of Kipsiro.
Kusuro had hoped to register a top ten finish on his senior debut at the World Cross Country Championships in Amman, Jordan but could only cross the line in 19th position (36:07). Still, he felt that performance in Jordan was fair enough for an athlete of his age. “At first I felt bad but later after realising that I had beaten the rest of my senior teammates besides Kipsiro, I became happy,” he said after returning from Jordan.
Kusuro qualified for the World Athletics Championships held in August in Berlin, Germany but couldn’t make the final after coming 12th in his 5,000m heat. He, however, recorded a Season Best (SB) time of 12:28.48.
Barely two weeks after leaving Berlin, Kusuro made history by becoming the first Ugandan to win gold (54:51, almost a minute ahead of the runner-up) at the World Mountain Running Championships in Italy. In November, he captured a second consecutive silver at the Obudu Ranch Mountain Race in Nigeria, which counted as the first African Mountain Running Championships.
Those two achievements raised Kusuro’s star and earned him a nomination for the Athlete of the Year award. Kusuro eventually finished second to Kipsiro at the annual local athletics federation awards gala, but still considers 2009 his best season yet.
Kusuro started last year by settling for second place (32:53) behind Kipsiro at the National Cross Country Championships held 6 February in Amuria.
He had a target of breaking into the top ten at the World Cross Country Championships in Poland but fell short, finishing 16th in 33:54. However, Bydgoszcz did mark success for the family.
Geofrey has inspired his sister, Viola Chemos, to put more effort into athletics so that she can also make it to the top. Chemos had won a junior silver medal at the 2009 National Cross Country Championships, but the Ugandan federation did not enter any female athletes for the world event in Amman. She grabbed bronze in 2010, and was on Uganda’s junior team for the World Cross in Poland. “It’s great to travel with my sister on a similar assignment. I hope we both do well,” Kusuro noted before the event.
Chemos placed 25th in the junior race, helping the team earn a historic first medal for Ugandan women (senior or junior), matching the Bydgoszcz placings of the junior men and Moses Kipsiro.
In April, Kusuro finished fourth at the 10km Giro Media Blenio road race, held in Dongio, Switzerland, clocking 29:28 and a month later was ninth at the Bangalore Sunfeast 10km race in 28:52. He kept his head high, hoping to make amends at the African Senior Championships (July 28- August 1) in Nairobi, but placed a distant 12th in the 5000m final (14:03.82).
In September, he failed to defend his World Mountain Running Championships gold medal, settling for bronze (56:57) in Slovenia. More disappointment was yet to come for Kusuro in the year, as he fell sick days to the start of the Commonwealth Games, forcing him to withdraw from Team Uganda. In November, he also failed to defend his silver at Obudu Ranch African Mountain Running Championships, coming home fifth (43:44).
Kusuro recovered in time to compete at this year’s National Cross Country Championships where he finished third (37:20) behind Kipsiro and Stephen Kiprotich. His display reaffirmed his place on the national team, but Kusuro never performed to his expectations at the World Cross Country Championships in Spain (20 March). He wanted to break into the top 10 but could only finish 13th (35:06). “I could have done better but I didn’t believe in myself. I will work harder. I believe things will get better this year,” Kusuro said.
Victory over 5000m (13:55.27) at the Eastern Africa Grand Prix in Khartoum (24 May) did help Kusuro regain some confidence.
The following month, he clocked a Personal Best (PB) of 13:14.2 to finish fifth in a 5000m race at the Montreuil-sous-Bois International Meeting in France (7 June). The performance was good enough for him to qualify for the World Championships due 27 August – 4 September in Daegu, South Korea. Five days later, he again finished fifth and achieved a new 3000m PB of 7:41.36 in Strasbourg, France.
On 22 July, he further lowered his 5000m PB, bringing it to 13:12.32 in finishing sixth in Barcelona in a race won by triple World Half Marathon champions Zersenay Tadese.
Kusuro will now travel to Daegu with a target of reaching the finals, having been eliminated at the semis in Berlin 2009. “I will be very disappointed if I fail to make the finals,” he said.
Kusuro’s parents, Anthony Muneria and Lydia Kiiza, are peasants, living off subsistence farming, but the runner hopes to make their lives better. “Our family is big but I always give them the little that I have because they are my source of happiness,” he said.
3000m: 7:41.36 (2011)
5000m: 13:12.32 (2011)
10km: 28:18 (2007)
3000m: 2006 – 8:15.9; 2007 - 7:54.08, 2008 – 7:58.58, 2011 – 7:41.36
5000m: 2005 – 14:02; 2006 – 13:49.1; 2007 – 13:42.0; 2008 – 13:18.38; 2009 – 13:28.48; 2010 – 13:40.82, 2011 – 13:12.32
2005 49th World Cross Country Championships (junior)
2006 14th World Cross Country Championships (junior)
2006 9th World Junior Championships (5000m)
2007 10th World Cross Country Championships (junior)
2007 1st World Mountain Running Trophy (junior)
2008 8th World Cross Country Championships (junior)
2008 4th World Junior Championships (5000m)
2008 11th Olympic Games (5000m)
2008 2nd Obudu Ranch International Mountain Race
2009 19th World Cross Country Championships
2009 12th World Athletics Championships
2009 1st World Mountain Running Championships
2009 2nd Obudu Ranch African Mountain Running Championships
2010 16th World Cross Country Championships
2010 12th African Championships (5000m)
2010 5th Obudu Ranch African Mountain Running Championships
2010 3rd World Mountain Running Championships
2011 13th World Cross Country Championships
Prepared by Sande Bashaija for the IAAF ‘Focus on Athletes’ project. Copyright IAAF 2009-2011