South Africa’s Boy Soke leads the Southern Africa Region Champs (Mark Ouma) © Copyright
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A look at Southern African region hopes in Edinburgh

Zambia’s Tony Wamulwa has set his sights on ending the Eastern African dominance of the Junior men’s contest at the 36th IAAF World Cross Country Championships, Edinburgh, Scotland on Sunday (30 March).

Wamulwa’s potential came to light when he was placed ninth at the annual event in Mombasa Kenya last year.  He was the only athlete from outside East Africa in the top 25 finishers.

This year he signalled his intent by winning the junior men’s eight kilometres at the Southern Africa Regional Cross country Championship in Lusaka on 23 February. Staged at the University of Lusaka, Wamulwa covered the eight kilometres in 22:38. This was almost a minute (23:32) ahead of Zimbabwean runner up Joshua Sabao (see full results below).

“I went to the regional event confident of victory even before the race begun because I did not see a strong challenger at the starting line.  For the past six month I have endured some very tough training,” Wamulwa began.

“For starters I was in Nairobi (Kenya) for a three month training stint. So I have a direct experience of how hard Kenyan athletes train. When I returned home in Kaoma western Zambia my coach continued with this rigorous regime. After training sessions all I want to do bath, eat, and sleep,” Wamulwa revealed.

“I am not afraid of the East Africans any more. The best from Uganda, Kenya, Ethiopia, Burundi, Rwanda, and Tanzania go through the same aches and pains of training which I have experienced. Therefore I am psychologically and physically ready for the challenge that lies ahead,” says Wamulwa.

Soke upbeat

Meanwhile South Africa’s Boy Soke who retained his Southern Africa Region Senior men’s title is also upbeat about his prospects in Edinburgh. After failing to complete the senior men’s race in Mombasa last year, he has comeback better prepared.

“I aim to make amends to my poor performance at my first World Cross Country Championships. In Mombasa Kenya last year the going was very tough. This time I am better prepared,” says Soke.

“Competing at the Janmeda International Championships in Addis Ababa Ethiopia in February was a good preparation for my title defence in (Lusaka) Zambia. This time I aim to finish in the top 15 in Edinburgh,” Soke declared.

Confidence in Zimbabwe and Malawi too

Elsewhere, Southern Africa’s quest for success in the senior women’s contest will be led by the Zimbabwean Samukeliso Moyo. Normally trailing her training partner and compatriot Tabitha Tsatsa, Moyo dethroned Tsatsa in Lusaka.  Malawi’s Catherine Chikwakwa was runner-up ahead of Tsatsa. Moyo is using cross country to build up endurance to defend her Cape Town Marathon title.

Perhaps Southern Africa’s most promising new find is Malawian Milliam Thole the winner of the junior women’s six kilometres in Lusaka.  Third last year at the regional event, Thole concedes that she surprised herself in Lusaka.

 “I did expect to win in Lusaka because I was sick with malaria for two weeks in January. After I recovered I was in the training camp for only a week before the Lusaka event. In Edinburgh I expect to do much better since I have recovered and have more confidence in my ability,” Thole explained.

Mark Ouma for the IAAF

Click here for full results of the Southern Africa Region Cross Country Championships that took place in Lusaka, Zambia on 23 Feb 2008.