KAMPALA, There is a buzz of excitement in Kampala as the Ugandan capital prepares to host the IAAF World Cross Country Championships on Sunday with top athletes from around the world expected to lock horns in the one day spectacle at Kololo Independence Grounds.
A stroll down Rhashid Kamisi Street, Kampala tailor made shops selling merchandises from synthetic national flags to athletics accessories in preparation for the races.
According to the sports governing body, about 2,500 guests are expected to grace the championships.
Figures also released show that about 560 athletes will compete in the different categories Sports News Arena interacted with Zack Kisesi, a 10 year trader in crafts who has temporarily switched to dealing in sports merchandise for the championships and he expects not only a boom in his business but also in Uganda’s performance.
“I know there will be plenty of people and business will be good especially from Saturday. We have good athletes that I am sure will perform well now that they will be competing at home,” the enthusiastic Kisesi said. ‘
Hao waKenya hawatushindi raundi hii’ (Kenyans will not defeat us this time around) one shopkeeper yelled while seemingly in a passionate debate with a colleague.
As part of this year’s incentive, IAAF announced in a statement that 310,000 US dollars (about Ksh 32 million) in total will handed in prize money to the top finishers in the senior races. Ksh. Sh3 million will be awarded to the winners of the men’s and women’s senior races.
The other top six finishers in those categories will also be paid. The Kenya Cross Country senior men’s champion Leonard Barsoton is confident of not only a win but also a medal sweep.
"We have been training well and I believe we are prepared to be on top again. It will be a tough course to compete on but I have stated before that if you win in the Kenyan championship then you have to believe that you are ready to win in the world championship. We have a strong team that can sweep all the medals," said Barsoton.
Barsoton showed great resilience to beat the more accomplished Bedan Karoki and defending world cross country champion Geoffrey Kamworor.
Karoki earned a slot that but opted out of the competition.
Barsoton added that he takes inspiration from his 2014 triumph where he won the African Cross Country Championships that was also held in Uganda.
However, the 22-year-old runner, who trains in Japan, has cited Kamworor, the host team most who are known to them as they train together in the high altitude areas and the Ethiopians as the main challengers in the 10km men’s race. The Ethiopians arrived in Kampala on Thursday.
Team Kenya is expected to travel to Kampala on Friday afternoon after a comprehensive training camp in St Mark's Teachers Training College in Kigari, Embu.
The squad comprising of 12 junior, 12 senior and six relay athletes will return to Kenya on Monday evening, a day after the competition concludes.
Barnabas Korir, the Athletics Kenya-Nairobi branch chairman, has also weighed in on Kenya’s chances of glory in Ugandan territory.
“Our athletes have all the necessary tools to succeed.However, they must be careful to avoid complacency as Ethiopians and Ugandans will have them in their sights. It is high time that they prove their mantle again because we have the best runners in the world,” Korir remarked.
IAAF President Sebastian Coe and Kenya’s five time cross country champion Paul Tergat, the event ambassadors will address the press alongside selected several elite athletes on Saturday.