Kenya and Ethiopia emerged as the top competitors in the 2017 World Cross Country Championships held in Kampala, Uganda, Sunday.
Kenya’s Geoffrey Kamworor successfully defended his World Senior Men’s title in a grueling race that was filled with major talking points.
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Ugandans were treated to an exciting start as their representative Stephen Kissa rubbed shoulders with the likes of Vincent Rono from Kenya and USA’s Stanley Kebanei in the leading group that dominated much of the race.
In the final lap, the odds suddenly turned against Ugandans as Joshua Cheptegei, who had broken further away from Kamworor, was overtaken by the defending champion, Kenya’s Leonard Barsoton, who took silver, and Ethiopia’s Abadi Hadis, who took bronze.
In the Senior Women’s 10km race, Kenya’s Irene Cheptai led her fellow countrywomen to a first-ever podium sweep at a fully packed Kololo Independence Stadium.
Cheptai finished the race in 37 minutes and 57 seconds followed by fellow Kenyans Alice Aprot (African 10,000m champion) and Lilian Kasait, consecutively.
“I am very happy to win my first-ever World Cross Country title. This means a lot to me, and I am looking forward to competing at the World Championships in London,” Cheptai said.
The U20 Women’s race went to Ethiopia’s Letesenbet Gidey, who finished with a time of 18:34 minutes. The runners had to do three laps of the Kololo Stadium, which is about 6km, and from the onset, Gidey appeared to have set her mind to retain the world title.
But it was not a walk in the park for her as she had to constantly watch out for a host of six Kenyans in the lead pack. As the race progressed, Kenya’s Hellen Lobun and Cellipine Chespol broke away from the leading pack dragging along the stubborn Gidey.
Still, the jubilant Ethiopian crowd rose to its feet to celebrate Gidey as she touched the finish line to defend her title.
Uganda’s Jacob Kiplimo won the men’s U20 race to give his country its first gold medal in the World Cross Country Championships. He finished the race with a time of 22:40 minutes.
The Kenyan team went on to stamp its authority in this year’s IAAF World Cross Country competition by winning the mixed relay gold with a time of 22:22 minutes, followed by Team Ethiopia and Team Turkey consecutively.
The event was officially opened by Ugandan President Yoweri Kaguta Museveni who was accompanied by his wife, Janet Museveni.