By Ben Ochieng
NAIROBI (Xinhua) --
Debate on the future of the World Cross Country
Championship is still emerging after over 400 athletes from 59
countries and regions converged in Uganda on March 26, for the
Year after year,
East African runners have proven their domination of cross
country that they decide the outcome in all races.
The top ten
finishers in each of the four races in the recent past have all
been notably runners from Kenya and Ethiopia.
Kenyan selected a
team of 28 athletes at this year’s event and won the senior
men’s and women’s titles where in the later they won all the top
six places including the newly-introduced mixed relays team
At their council
meeting in Berlin in 2009, the International Association of
Athletics Federations (IAAF) ruled that the World Cross Country
Championships will now be held once every two years rather than
The council members
argued that this would allow continents to organize continental
championships on the alternate years.
This is after Kenya
and Ethiopia dominated the discipline so much that European
television interest in the sport took nosedive.
“That was the excuse
rather than the reason. This measure was undertaken after the
Kenya and Ethiopia dominated the event so much that they made it
an East African affair,” Kenya’s national sprint coach, Stephen
Mwaniki told Xinhua.
So dominant have the
two nations been that these days you don’t even get athletes
from West Africa competing.
The event returned
to Africa for the fifth time in Kampala thid year after Rabat in
Morocco (1975), Stellenbosch in South Africa (1996), Marrakech
in Morocco (1998) and Mombasa in Kenya in (2007).
countries are also no longer interested in competing for the
minor positions at the World Cross Country Championships and
European broadcasters are no longer interested in covering the
federations are no longer interested in sending athletes to the
competitions, reasoning why they should invest to fight for 13th
“The decision to
have biannual global cross country championships did not go down
well with Kenyan runners who see cross country running as the
best way for athletes to launch preparations for their track
season,” Athletics Kenya Senior Vice-President, Paul Mutwii
Kenyan and Ethiopian
runners made their world cross country debut in Madrid in 1981
when Kenya finished third overall.
Casacuberta was the last man from outside East Africa to win the
junior men’s race in 1984, while John Ngugi became the first
Kenyan to win the senior men’s title in 1986 in Neuchatel,
Switzerland, the first of his five global titles.
Kenya’s Paul Tergat
also won the World Cross title five times. After Punta Umbria
2011, the world waited until 2013 for next global cross country
In 1997, a committee
within IAAF that runs road running and cross country introduced
the shorter races, the 4km for men and women.
This added the
program to six races of cross country running on top of the
junior men and women and senior men and women.
The reason given
then was to expand cross-country running. However, insiders knew
this was an idea promoted by European federations to try and
balance cross country to give their athletes a chance to finish
in respectable positions.
But as it turned
out, Kenya dominated the inaugural 4km races in Marrakech,
Morocco, in 1998 swept all the medals on offer.
continued their domination of the 4km races in all subsequent
years and it also became a Kenyan affair.
again chose to make World Cross Country Championships a biennial
event, claiming the global economic situation could not sustain
some of their events.
During the 2010
edition in Bydgoszcz, Poland, Kenya made World Cross Country
history by winning all eight gold medals and all four team
titles, an awesome display even by their all-conquering
Kenya and Ethiopia
have unquestionably conquered and divided the event between
themselves, with the big casualty of all being they have killed
off the interest of practically everybody else and in the
process making the World Cross Country to be largely ignored by
the European nations.