Rehearsal for World Cross Country Championships in Ostend Sunday
Monaco With eight days to go to the 29th IAAF World Cross Country Championships, which will take place during the weekend 24-25 March in Ostend, Belgium, initial entries have already been received for 758 athletes 430 men and 323 women representing 58 National Federations. These figures will increase in the hours to come, with a total of 900-1000 athletes expected in the final tally.
The Belgian organising committee, assisted by the IAAF, is working flat out to ensure the success of this event. As one might expect, the sudden change of venue from Dublin to Ostend resulting from an Irish Government decision due to the foot and mouth epidemic, has raised a number of organisational problems, but these are rapidly being solved. Without any doubt the fact that the world championships will take place is a major success for the whole athletics movement and proof of the strong spirit of solidarity existing in its ranks.
On Sunday, the Wellington Hippodrome in Ostend will host the Belgian cross country championships and this will be an interesting rehearsal for the World Championships.
Belgiums Mohammed Mourhit, who triumphed in Vilamoura last year in front of Ethiopias Assefa Mezegebu and Paul Tergat (KEN), will definitely be the man to beat on Sunday 25 March. His current form, demonstrated by his silver medal at the Lisbon World Indoors 3000m, with 7:38.94, behind Hicham El Guerrouj, is looking to peak at just the right time. All will labour with the conditions on the Ostend course, which is considered by observers to be extremely tricky, with gusting winds off the sea coursing across the seafront hippodrome. But Mourhit is used to the weather in Belgium, a country that has a longstanding tradition of producing great cross country runners: from Van den Broele, Chapelle and Van Rumst to the more recent Vandewattyne, Doms, Theys, Roelants, Clerckx, Puttemans, De Beck and Schots.
We can look forward to some great competition on 25 march, over the 12.3 kilometres of the long cross: the Kenya squad, headed by Patrick Ivuti, backed up by John Korir, Paul Kosgei, Charles Kamathi, Enocl Mitei and Richard Limo, being most likely threatened only by a number of individuals, such as Mourhit, Portugals Paulo Guerra, Ukrainian Sergiy Lebid and a fresh young Ethiopian team headed by 21-year-old Hailu Mekonnen