Paul Tergat at the 1999 IAAF World Cross Country Championships (Getty Images) © Copyright
Preview Nairobi, Kenya

Kenya's distance stars battle for national honours

Paul Tergat, five-time World Cross Country Champion, is to use Kenya's national trials on Thursday in preparation for an assault on the 10,000 metres world record later this year.

"He has requested a place in the 5000 metres because he wants to perfect his speed," Willy Komen, head of the Armed Forces coaching panel, told Reuters. "We respect his request and have granted it."

Over this distance Tergat faces stiff competition from young athlete Benjamin Limo who won the short course men's title at the World Cross Country Championships in March and beat Tergat earlier this month.

Limo's coach Jimmy Beuttah said he was ready for the challenge after training at a high altitude camp near the town of Nyahururu, at the foot of Mount Kenya.

Daniel Komen, the defending 5000m World Champion who will be in Seville as a wild card, has decided, in addition to running his usual distance, to also attempt the 1500m. Here he will be pitted against steeplechase triple World Champion (1991, 1993 and 1995) Moses Kiptanui, who has been out of action for nearly a year due to injury.

Kenya’s distance running mastery is most clearly seen in the steeplechase and this year's trials are no exception. This race should be fiercely competitive with all the favourites taking part: World record holder Bernard Barmasai, Olympic champion Joseph Keter and current world champion Wilson Boit Kipketer.

Kenya's teams for the World Championships in Seville will be named at the end of the trials on Saturday. The rules of qualification have been modified slightly this year. The first two to finish in each discipline will qualify automatically for the Kenyan team in Seville. However, the third place will be decided at the discretion of the Kenyan Amateur Athletic Federation.

Previously, similarly to the system in the United States, the first three in each race gained entrance to the World Championship team, regardless of their performances outside the National Championships.

Reuters for the IAAF