Kenya’s Kiprop upbeat on return to world cross-country meet

Nairobi, Feb 28 (IANS) World champion in 1500 metres Asbel Kiprop of Kenya is making a return to cross-country running after 10 years and hopes to excel when the World Championships are held in Kampala, Uganda, in March.

Kiprop last competed at the event in 2007 — when Mombasa, Kenya, hosted the competition — winning in junior men’s race.

He kept off the event and has only returned not to compete in the same event but a new relay event, which is being introduced for the first time in Uganda, reports Xinhua news agency.

However, after securing a slot in the Kenya team, Kiprop is optimistic that he will weather the storm in Kampala and win another medal in cross-country.

“Good to be back in Kigari training camp in Embu (Kenya) after exactly 10 years. It’s a special moment. There’s a difference since 2007 team… I can see only Leornard Komon, who was on this team a decade ago,” said Kiprop on Monday.

Indeed with a huge talent pool to draw from, Kenya has never lacked replacement and each team has had its strength and with Kampala next, Kiprop is certain the country will deliver the medals as it comes up against hosts Uganda, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Bahrain, Qatar and the US who have dominated the championships.

This year will mark the 42nd edition of the global cross-country championships. It will also be the fifth time the championships will be hosted by Africa after Rabat in 1975, Stellenbosch in 1996, Marrakech in 1998 and Mombasa in 2007.

While Kampala is expected to add to that rich tradition that now spans more than four decades, it will also add a new chapter with the inaugural mixed relay.

Nearly 600 athletes from 54 member federations are expected to compete in Kampala, the highest number of countries and regions represented at the IAAF World Cross-Country Championships since 2009.

Kenya has topped the medal tables at four of the past five editions, but its rivalry with Ethiopia is expected to remain fierce. The two nations split the four individual titles in 2015 at two apiece, while Ethiopia captured 11 medals in all to Kenya’s nine.

Hosts Uganda are also expected to wage a strong battle for both individual and team crowns, with Eritrea and Bahrain also likely to play key roles in several of the medal fights.