the man to beat in Kenyan Cross Country championships
Peter Njenga for IAAF
23 February 2001 Nairobi - Five times World Cross Country champion Paul Tergat jetted in to Nairobi on Thursday only to be hit by a strong heat wave currently prevalent in the city.
Tergat, who will be called upon to safeguard his status as the best cross country runner of all time on Saturday during the Kenyan national championships/IAAF permit meeting, is not underrating the opposition.
"For sure things won't be easy on Saturday," said Tergat, winner of the Kenya Armed Forces championships three weeks ago.
"As you know the nationals are never easy nor predictable and I know there will be very stiff competition," said Tergat on Friday before taking a short break to rest and be physiologically prepared.
"I am surprised the weather had changed so fast. We will have to fight against the heat and dry conditions. Times will be poor and the strongest will succeed.
"I am surprised how the pattern has changed within that short time," added Tergat whose ultimate aim is to leave the local cross country circuit with his head held high today.
He had to navigate through mud and pools of water during the Forces meeting held at a racecourse on the outskirts of Nairobi, also the venue for tomorrow's race.
Tergat, 31, will be running in his last World Cross Country Championships in Dublin and is looking for an unprecedented sixth title before moving up to the marathon on April 22 in London.
Judging on his current form, Tergat is the favourite, but as usual the Kenyan championships are never predictable. And Paul Koech, as he has proven in the past, could be Tergat's biggest opponent.
On one hand Tergat, Koech and Patrick Ivuti, who are from the military team, could run together against the winner of the Rift Valley championships - Sammy Kipketer, Enock Mitei (who has notched three major victories this season) and Charles Kamathi, winner of the IAAF cross country permit meeting in Seville. These athletes may form the Kenyan team for the Dublin championships.
The IAAF 4km world cross country champion John Kibowen, Laban Rotich and Richard Limo are the leading contenders for the shorter distance.
Some of the worlds best marathon and road racers fight for local supremacy in the women's 8km race with Rotterdam and Boston marathon competitors Susan Chepkemei and Catherine Ndereba spearheading the Kenya Prisons team.
They will be joined by Leah Malot, probably the most durable athlete in the world in 1999 when she raced in more than 30 events world-wide throughout the year.
Other athletes to watch include Rose Cheruiyot who has recently shown tremendous improvement, Lydia Cheromei (winner of the 1999/2000 IAAF Cross Challenge) and newcomer Winfrida Kwamboka.
IAAF president Lamine Diack will attend the meeting and tomorrow will tour the IAAF High Performance Training Centre at Kip Keino Kazi Mingi farm near Eldoret.