So what was the secret of team Kenya’s success at the world cross country?

By ronnie evans
Mar 28, 2017
  • Kenya's Alice Aprot leads the women's senior race. Kenyans occupied the top six positions.(Photo by Shutterspeed)

  • The Kenya relay tema celebrates after winning gold at the World Cross country.(Photo by Shutterspeed)

  • Jacob Kiplimo, Uganda's sole medallist was reportedly born in Kenya.(Photo by Shutterspeed)

As the celebrations continued at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport when the triumphant national cross country team jetted back home from Kampala after topping the World Cross Country Championships, the question on everyone's lips was how do they do this?

The secret is the work put into training schedules according to deputy team manager and veteran coach Mike Kosgei.

“We had the team for about four weeks where we had an opportunity to work with them on their strength and weaknesses. The athletes I would say had been focused throughout and followed instructions during the sessions.

"The competition was stiff especially in the junior races and they have room for improvement. We dominated the senior races and that was no surprise given how well they trained,” Koskei said.

Kenya could only manage bronze medals in the junior categories. Keen observation and one could tell that the athletes had a problem with endurance as fatigue crept into the youngsters.

This was not the case for the Ethiopians who ran as a unit till the end.

Embu a good training base 

Kosgei also believed the choice to train at Kigari Teachers College in Embu and meticulous training at the camp which turned out to have similar conditions to the the course in Kampala.

The undisputed highlight of Kenya’s dominance was the historic clean sweep of the top six positions in the women’s senior 10km race.

It was revealed by captain Faith Chepngetich that their strategy was to work a unit.

Their decision paid as they blew the field away. Sports News Arena learnt that the more seasoned cross country runners Irene Cheptai and Alice Aprot had the task of setting the pace. Cheptai went on to win it all ahead of Aprot.

The other high was Kenya’s victory in the mixed relay event, the newly introduced for this competition. What made the race more special was the role played by Olympic 1500m champion Asbel Kiprop who made a return to the cross country after a 10-year absence.

Kiprop won the junior men’s race in 2007. Kiprop said that he was not at his best going into race but good coaching and team tactics helped them to prevail.

“I was not fully fit coming into this competition because I did not start my training early enough but I kept on believing in myself,” Kiprop said.

He was expected to anchor the team in the final leg but opted to start the race to create a comfortable gap for his teammates. It worked perfectly.

Ultimately winning the championships first gold medal. Kenyan athletes did not only horde the medals, they practically had the highest number of runners chasing medals at the Kololo Independence course.

Kenyans had tens of runners in Kampala Kenya B 

There were tens of Kenyan born runners running for their adopted nation. This could be controversial but yes the Ugandan who won his country’s first ever medal was born in Kenya.

Julius Kiplimo, who trains in Iten opted to run for Uganda possibly easier for him to make the team than at Kenya’s flooded trials and the gamble paid off as he delivered the junior 8km title.

Paul Chelimo who moved to the United States in 2006 represented USA in the mixed relay while Isaac Kipruto turned up for Belgium in the men’s senior race.

Throw in ‘Kenya B’ which was the name branded by the huge Kenyan fans who graced the event,Bahrain. Two of their five athletes in the men’s senior race were Kenyan born.

Abraham Naibei and Albert Rop were the two runners. Olympic steeplechase champion Ruth Jebet, Rose Chelimo and Eunice Chumba,all Kenyans by birth, were also running for Bahrain in the senior women’s races.

Kenya’s impressive showing in the main races meant that they led the standings with a total haul of three gold, four silver and three bronze medals.

Ethiopia was second with three gold, three silver medals. Hosts Uganda was ranked third with one gold and two bronze medals.

No time to party as the track season kicks off in April that will culminate with the team selection for the world championships in London, where Kenya will be looking to repeat their 2015 dominance which saw them top the medal standings for the first time in the event history.