Month to go before IAAF/Sports Ireland World Cross Country Championships In Dublin
21 February 2002 - Monte Carlo - This weekend marks the start of the one month countdown to the 2002 IAAF/Sports Ireland World Cross Country Championships, the most venerable event on the IAAF calendar, which takes place on 23-24 March in Dublin.
Founded as the Nations Cross Country Championships in 1903, the competition gradually increased its international appeal until the IAAF "officially" took over the competition in 1973. This first edition took place in Belgium, when Waregem played host under the watchful eyes of King Baudouin, and so did the last, with Ostend stepping in as a last minute replacement for Dublin because of the Foot and Mouth epidemic.
This year, Dublin plays host for real, and the world's top specialists are currently fine-tuning their preparations for what has been called the toughest distance race in the world. With races for men and women (long and short course) and for juniors, Dublin should offer "traditional" cross country conditions, but not quite a repeat of Ostend's freezing weather and clinging mud.
Amongst the men, this weekend's Kenyan National Championship will provide an important form guide, since that country's athletes have dominated the World Cross for more than a decade. Kenya "lost" the prestigious men's long course title only twice between 1986 and 1999, with the last two titles going to Mohamed Mourhit, a Belgian. A host of Kenyans will be eager to end his streak, including Armed Forces Champions Paul Koech and Sammy Kipketer (long and short course respectively) - who have been impressive in recent weeks.
Among the women - long course defending champion Paula Radcliffe (GBR) has a second title in her sights. Radcliffe, who has won two successive World Half Marathon titles, also plans to take on an old cross country adversary Derartu Tulu (ETH) (World Cross Champion in 1995, 1997 and 2000) in her eagerly awaited Marathon debut in London on 14 April.