Diekirch, in Luxembourg, and Chiba, in Japan, are the next two stages of the IAAF World Cross Country Challenge, with both events taking place on Sunday.
Thomas Nyariki (KEN), who currently leads the men’s standings after his victory last Sunday in the 22nd Almond Blossom Cross Country, will not be running this week and is most likely to be preparing for the Kenyan trials prior to the forthcoming World Championships in Marrakech on 21-22 March.
This will give Frenchman Yann Millon, who lies just one point behind Nyariki in the standings to take back the leadership he lost last week.
Millon will be running in the 10.2km cross country in Diekirch, where he will be facing the usual squad of Kenyans - Julius Chelule, Laban Chege, Matthew Birir, Philip Mosima and, above all, the powerful Joseph Machuka. It is Machuka, who came fifth last week, who leads the favourites, along with Portugal’s Paulo Guerra, Robert Stefko from Slovakia and Denmark’s Carsten Joergensen, the European cross country champion.
Mariana Chirila (ROM), who leads in the women’s standings, will have her work cut out to stay ahead of Kenya’s Susan Chekemei and Caroline Tarus, and Colleen De Reuck from South Africa.
It should be interesting to see the debut of Switzerland’s Anita Weyerman, who took bronze in the 1500m in the 1997 World Championships in Athletics in Athens.
In Chiba, the men’s cross will feature Australian marathon runner Steve Moneghetti - bronze medallist in Athens ’97 -, Rwandan Mathias Ntawulikura, and British runners Keith Cullen and Andrew Pearson among the favourites. But they will have to watch out for the local athletes and also for Burundi’s Aloys Nizigama who, apart from his abilities as a distance runner, also has a fine turn of speed.
Among the women, Sally Barsosio (KEN) will be the athlete to beat, but she too will be facing stiff competition from the Japanese. Also in with a chance, Manuela Machado (POR), Ester Wanjiru (KEN) and Stella Olteanu (ROM)
Reports and results from Chiba and Diekirch will be posted on the IAAF web site - on Sunday afternoon.