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Malaria sidelines defending champion Enock Koech

Malaria sidelines defending champion Enock Koech
Sean Wallace-Jones for the IAAF
21 March 2001 – Dublin, Ireland – Kenyan team officials have confirmed that Enock Koech will be unable to defend his World Short Course Cross Country title here in Dublin on Saturday.

The 20-year old, who won the 4km short course race in Ostend last year is suffering from a bout of malaria and was in the words of the team managers “too poorly to be able to compete”.

The absence of Koech, who won the short course race in the mud of Ostend by a narrow two second margin ahead of young Ethiopian prodigy Kenenisa Bekele leaves the 19-year old, who went on to win the men’s junior race in Ostend, likely favourite for the senior title this time around.

Indeed, the youngster has much bigger ambitions and will contest both of the senior men’s events here over the weekend.

Most recently, Bekele was a convincing winner in the historic Cinque Mulini Cross in Italy and he has only suffered one defeat this season, in December, at the hands of the mighty Gebrselassie himself – making a rare appearance off the track in his native Ethiopia.

Although the Kenyans will still be fielding a strong team, the absence of Koech, which was decided at the last minute will no doubt be a blow to the team’s tactics in the shorter race. The champion is replaced in the Kenyan line up by the little known Julius Nyamu.

Although Bekele's participation in the senior long course race is yet to be confirmed, he will face some seasoned competitors and notably the defending two-time champion Mohammed Mourhit who, although he has not made a great impression so far this season, is quite capable of repeating his exploit of last year when he managed to retain his title despite a nagging calf injury and the extremely heavy going in the freezing mud of Ostend.

The Kenyan long course team includes Richard Limo, who was pipped at the finish in Ostend by Bekele in the short course race last year and who will not wish to repeat that experience again on the Leopardstown course. Backing up Limo is Charles Kamathi who will be aiming to follow up his stunning gold in the 10,000 metres in Edmonton in August with another global title here on Sunday.