Former world champions Geoffrey Kamworor and Irene Cheptai have laid down the gauntlet ahead of the national trials for the World Championships set for Saturday at the Kenya Prisons Training College, Ruiru.
Christened the king of all surfaces, Kamworor is a two-time World Cross Country Champion, having won the 2015 and 2017 editions while Cheptai claimed the 2017 honours.
It will be the first race for the three-time World Half Marathon champion Kamworor since finishing fifth at the World Athletics Championships marathon in Oregon, United States on July 17 this year.
Kamworor, who was eying a hat-trick lost his crown to Uganda’s Joshua Cheptegei in 2019 in Aarhus, Denmark where he settled for bronze.
Unlike Kamworor, who has competed in two races this year, Cheptai has been busy this year, having just won the last leg of Athletics Kenya Cross Country Series in Iten last weekend.
After claiming silver in 10,000 metres at the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham on August 3, Cheptai called time on track to move fully to road running.
The 30-year-old went on to win the Prague Grand Prix 10,000m in Czech on September 3 before winning Delhi Half Marathon on October 16 in India.
However, Kamworor, the 2015 World 10,000m silver medallist, faces a star-studded field in his journey for his fourth World Cross Country Championships title.
His world cross exploits began in 2011 in Punta Umbria, Spain where he won the under-20, a title that has eluded Kenya since then.
Kamworor is up against World 10,000m silver medallist Stanley Waithaka, who will be seeking his first show at the World Cross Country Championships and Commonwealth Games 10,000m silver medallist Daniel Simiu, who won the Ol Kalou leg of the AK Series, and Edward Zakayo among others.
Even though World Cross Country defending champion Hellen Obiri is out of the equation, Cheptai still has a mountain to climb as she comes up against up against World 5,000m silver medallist Beatrice Chebet, who is also the Commonwealth 5,000m champion, world 3,000m steeplechase record holder Beatrice Chepkoech and Commonwealth 3,000m steeplechase champion Jackline Chepkoech.
“Everyone is in good shape but my main aim is to make the team first before strategising on how I can reclaim the world title. Winning in 2017 gave me global recognition,” said Cheptai.
Chebet couldn’t mince her words after her victory in Ol Kalou, having also won women’s under-20 title during the 2019 World Cross Country Championships in Århus, Demark.
“I am focused on upgrading it with a senior crown in Australia next year,” said Chebet. “I want to firmly follow in the footsteps of Hellen Obiri by winning two senior world titles within one year,” affirmed Chebet, who is also focused on winning the world 5,000m title next year.
The World Cross Country Championships is due for February 18 in Bathurst, Australia and will be followed by the World Athletics Championships in August 19 to 27 in Budapest, Hungary all next year.