Mombasa, KenyaFivetime World Cross Country champion Paul Tergat who is acting as one of the local Ambassadors for today’s 35th IAAF World Cross Country Championships, Mombasa, Kenya expects Ethiopia’s Kenenisa Bekele to score a record sixth victory in this afternoon’s long race.
“There is a lot of hype for Bekele to be winning, a lot of people have very high expectations and I believe he has many advantages over other runners.”
“Bekele has the experience that it takes to win a World Cross Country title, he also has the purpose of winning his sixth title and breaking mine and John Ngugi’s record of five victories. And this will certainly give him that extra edge that he may need.”
“Bekele has certainly not decided to come here to tour around Mombasa, he is here to get the record.”
Although Bekele scored an unprecedented five World Cross Country doubles winning short and five long course titles and remaining unbeaten from 2002 and 2006, he still shares the record of five World long course titles with Kenyan legends John Ngugi (1986-1989 & 1992) and Paul Tergat (1995-1999) both of whom were presented with the IAAF Order of Merit at last night’s IAAF official dinner.
With the programme going back to its original format of just one long course race for both and women this year, Bekele’s main hurdle today will be the oppressive heat. For the first time in the long history of the World Cross Country Championships, the event takes place under extremely difficult conditions combining a 80% humidity with temperatures ranging in the 30+ degrees.
“I spoke with Bekele yesterday,” Tergat continued, “and he is very confident. However he obviously can’t give a 100% commitment that he will win today’s race. The weather will play a major role and although all the teams have approached the question of the heat and humidity I am certain that many teams will not finish will all their runners.”
In Tergat’s mind still lies a small chance that Bekele may be defeated though. “If they go out very hard in the first five kilometres there may be a totally new name that comes out on top. You never know what can happen. In the Kenyan teams all have the potential of being a winner.”
Although Tergat will obviously cheer for his compatriots he does not deny his desire to see Bekele make history in his home country and in front of his own fans.
“I am extremely happy that the World Cross has come to Kenya. This is the best place to run a cross and I will be really happy if Bekele broke the record. When I won my fifth race I knew my record had been set to be broken and it will be nice to see Bekele break this record.”
At 37, Tergat is the World record holder for the Marathon. He admits that being in the stands of today’s race may be a bit frustrating for him once he men’s long race gets underway.
“I miss running the cross. I’m sure I can still go down there and do it!” he concluded with his traditional grin.
Laura Arcoleo for the IAAF