KAMPALA, IAAF President Sebastian Coe has stressed the importance of cross country running and hailed the world governing body's effort to host top events. The head of track and field urged more athletes particularly those based in Europe to incorporate cross country.
“My message to the new generation of coaches and athletes is that they should recognize that cross country is not only about physical or mental strength. It actually brings running communities together in one of the most pure form of our sport.
“This is the IAAF family coming together for the first world athletics series of the year. It kicks off an extraordinary season that will also have the World Relays Championships in Bahamas then the World U-18 championships in Nairobi.”
Coe said on Saturday in Kampala. Coe is in Uganda ahead of the World Cross Country Championships. He chose to dwell on the positives of having the events in Africa, unwilling to discuss the issues surrounding the withdrawal of six major countries from the World U-18 championships slated for July.
Coe also expects a good and successful competition on Sunday that will be held at Kololo Independence Grounds with 557 athletes from 59 nations listed to compete.
“The championships and the quality of the performances that you will see on Sunday consensually exemplify the fact that this is a truly global sport. This is a big moment for Uganda because it is the first time that they are hosting a World Series event.
"It is also a big moment for Africa because bringing our championships here has been one of my commitments since I took charge and my council members know how important it is to grow the sport wherever possible. Taking the sport into the heartland of our talent and our passion is a plus and there is no better heartland than in Africa,” he added.
No refugee team in Kampala
Coe and local organisers had hoped that a 60th squad representing an Athletes Refugee Team would be taking part in Sunday’s championships, but issues with their travel papers hurdles ultimately prevented the members from making the trip to Kampala.
Coe paid tribute to IAAF Ambassador Tegla Loroupe whose Peace Foundation initiated the refugee team concept in 2014, a project funded by the IAAF, and noted that efforts remain in motion to ensure that refugees are represented at future IAAF World Athletics Series events.
“I take great pride that it was the IAAF that initially funded and saw the vision sitting behind Tegla’s foundation. Had it not been for that initial work we would not have been celebrating the refugee team in Rio last year.” Loroupe underscored that the project is a critical long-term commitment of her foundation.
“I really want to thank the IAAF for helping us with the refugee communities, knowing that one day they will be participating in this event,” Loroupe said. “As you all know it is difficult for refugees to travel.” “But we are not discouraged,” she added.