Ericson Kiprono @PeopleSports11
Cross-Country running has been a preserve of Kenyan and Ethiopian runners since inception but for the first time in history, the two countries are set to come up against formidable challenges in the 43rd edition of the World Cross-Country Championships in Aarhus, Denmark on March 30.
Fresh competition is coming from Uganda, United States of America, Qatar, Turkey and Bahrain. However, what is interesting is that apart from Uganda, the rest are actually Kenyan-born runners set to represent their adopted countries.
USA lead the way with five ‘Kenyans’ in their 28-member team to Denmark with National Cross-Country champion Shadrack Kipchirchir (pictured), a 2016 Rio Olympic 10,000m finalist, set to captain it. Others are Leonard Korir, Hillary Bor, Stanley Kebenei and Emmanuel Bor.
However, while acknowledging that competition will be tough in Denmark, Athletics Kenya Nairobi branch boss Barnabas Korir has urged Team Kenya not to shift concentration it and instead focus on their own performance.
“Don’t castigate them as traitors to our national flag. They have been naturalised and followed all the laws to compete for the US,” Korir told People Sport. “Instead, let Kenyans appreciate them like we have previously done before with sportsmen with Kenyan roots including Divock Origi (Liverpool striker playing for Belgium) and Chris Froome (Kenya-born British cyclist),” he added.
“This huge Kenyan representation across the globe means the country is exporting top talent. It should not be a concern for us since those are personal decisions for them to change allegiance,” said Korir.
The allure of big money has been the key reason Kenyan athletes jump ship and stakeholders have been calling on the state to reward them handsomely to ensure this ceases.