Monte-Carlo – When the final entry deadline for the 35th IAAF World Cross Country Championships, Mombasa, Kenya (24 March) passed a week ago, all those athletes who had won last year’s individual senior titles were included. Four golds, three athletes, one country – Ethiopia!
Given the recent history of the World Cross Country Championships, the entry of the 2006 Fukuoka champions Kenenisa Bekele (two titles – men’s short and long course), Tirunesh Dibaba (women’s long course), and Gelete Burka (women’s short course) will have tempered all but the most optimistic of the 1.15 million citizens of this Indian Ocean seaport from making preparations to celebrate home victories on 24 March.
Understandably, Kenyans want to celebrate the occasion of their hosting of the World Cross Country Championships which will be the first occasion on which Kenya will host an IAAF World Athletics Series event. For a country which since the late 1960s has been at the forefront of long distance running particularly cross country, these Championships really do signal the discipline’s spiritual ‘home coming’.