Kampala, Uganda | AFP | By Michael O’HAGAN
Kenya dominated the World Cross-Country Championships on Sunday, Geoffrey Kamworor defending his men’s title, Irene Cheptai leading a historic cleansweep in the women’s race and Asbel Kiprop helping to secure a third gold in the mixed relay.
Kamworor had to rely on a late break to win the men’s race in 28min 24sec, making him the first back-to-back winner since 2006.
Uganda’s Joshua Cheptegei had led for most of the race, to the delight of the home crowd, with dozens of Ugandans running alongside him.
But there was drama as he collapsed in the final lap, eventually recovering to hobble over the line in 30th place. (Click HOW CHEPTEGEI COLLAPSED)
Kamworor made no mistake with his perfectly-timed run, sprinting in ahead of Kenyan cross country champion Leonard Barsoton, with Ethiopia’s Abadi Hadis rounding out the podium.
“I was confident of retaining my title,” said Kamworor.
“When the Ugandan broke away, I kept my cool and ran my race. I knew he would get tired. His pace was so high and it would have been amazing if he had maintained to the end.”
Kamworor added: “From the start of the race I was really focused. I knew there were a lot of Kenyans who travelled overnight and I didn’t want to disappoint them.”
– Kenyan women shine –
Kenya proved to be even more dominant in the women’s race, Cheptai leading home five of her teammates for a first-ever podium cleansweep for the east African running powerhouse.
“The course was very tough,” Cheptai said. “We didn’t think it was possible to get one through six but we cooperate as Kenyans.”
Cheptai, who was seventh at the world championships in Guiyang two years ago, clocked 31:57 around the 10km course. Silver went to Alice Nawowuna and bronze to Lilian Rengeruk.
Defending champion Agnes Tirop placed fifth and Olympic 1,500m champion Faith Kipyegon was sixth in the biennial event, the first major sporting showpiece held in Uganda, only the fourth African country to host the worlds in its 44-year history.
Morocco hosted twice in 1975 and 1998, South Africa in 1996 and Kenya in 2007. The competition was changed from an annual to a biennial event in 2011.
There was joy for the home nation as Jacob Kiplimo won the under-20 men’s race, Letesenbet Gidey of Ethiopia claiming gold in the junior women’s race.
Kiplimo, a 2015 World Junior athletics championship 10,000m bronze medalist, covered the 8km course in 22:40, ending the Kenyan and Ethiopian dominance in the event to win the first global title of his career. (click KIPLIMO WINS GOLD)
Uganda finished third overall out of 59 countries with gold for Kiplimo, and two team bronze medals for the junior women and the senior men’s team.
Kenya, powered by three-time world 1500m champion and 2008 Olympic gold medallist Asbel Kiprop, also took gold in the inaugural mixed relay.
Beatrice Chepkoech held on to see off Genzebe Dibaba’s spirited last leg for Ethiopia to claim gold by eight seconds, a Turkish team made up of four former Kenyans taking bronze.
More than 550 athletes from 59 countries took part at the worlds, but a refugee team from South Sudan had to drop out at the last minute due to what an IAAF official termed “administrative hurdles”.