MonteCarloIf there is an event on which the Kenyan hosts should count on in Mombasa, Kenya at the 35th IAAF World Cross Country Championships, 24 March 2007, it is certainly the women’s junior race.
After a clean sweep of the medals at last year’s edition in Fukuoka – the only clean sweep of those championships – Kenyan teenagers are in a strong position to achieve the same exploit next Saturday.
It would be even more dramatic if it was the same three athletes who stood on Fukuoka’s podium who managed to reiterate their achievements in Mombasa. On paper, the feat is possible given that last year’s gold, silver and bronze medallists, respectively Pauline Chemning Korikwiang, Veronica Nyaruai Wanjiru and Mercy Jelimo Kosgei are all entered in the race.
If Korikwiang was to retain her title she would become the only junior woman athlete to do so since compatriot Viola Kibiwott won gold in 2001 and 2002.
However, she will not have an easy task especially since Wanjiru will be eager to improve on her pair of World Junior silver medals won in St-Etienne ‘05 and Fukuoka ’06.
It wouldn’t be the first time that Wanjiru prevails on her older compatriot. The two athletes were aiming for the 3000m gold medal at both the IAAF World Youth Championships in Marrakech and the IAAF World Junior Championships in Beijing.
On both occasions, Wanjiru took gold while Korikwiang had to settle for silver.
A World Junior silver medallist at 1500m, Kosgei could manage to improve on her bronze medal if she manages to keep up with the leaders’ pace in the early part of the race.
Ethiopia will be one of fifteen nations with a full team in Mombasa and needless to say will aim at regaining the Women’s Junior team title which has eluded them since 2004.
Interestingly Genzebe Dibaba, younger sister of Olympic medallists Tirunesh - who won the World Junior Cross gold in 2003 - and Ejagayou should also be in the field.
Europe’s best chances lay in Great Britain & Northern Ireland’s representatives namely Sian Edwards and Emily Pidgeon.
Tenth last year in Fukuoka, Edwards was also sixth at the 2006 World Junior Championships and fifth at the 2005 World Youth Championships. One year younger, Pidgeon won the European 5000m Junior title and was fourth in the recently contested European Cross Country Championships.
Laura Arcoleo for the IAAF
TEAMS AND RESERVES
Teams of no more than twelve (12) athletes can be entered in the race. Nine (9) athletes will be allowed to start in each race, six (6) of whom will score.
Junior Men, Senior Women, Junior Women
Teams of no more than eight (8) athletes can be entered in all races. Six (6) athletes will be allowed to start in each race, four (4) of whom will score.
Junior athletes (i.e. athletes who are 18 or 19 by 31 December 2007) can compete in any race. However, Junior athletes cannot compete in both Junior and Senior Races.
Youth athletes (i.e. athletes who are 16 or 17 by 31 December 2007) can compete only in the Junior Race.