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Big entry for World Cross Country Championships in Kampala

NAIROBI (Xinhua) -- Over 600 athletes are expected to compete at this year’s World Cross Country Championships, in Kampala, Uganda on March 26.

Kenya will be fielding a strong squad of 24 same as Eritrea, Ethiopia and hosts Uganda. Both Kenya and Ethiopia have dominated cross-country and are favourites when the event takes place in Kampala.

Kenya swept all the titles at 2014 Africa Cross-country in Kololo and announced the arrival of new talents like Agnes Tirop, who went on to win the World Cross Country event in Guiyang, China and Leonard Barsoton.

"We are anticipating to have over 600 athletes from 54 member federations to compete in Kampala, the highest number of countries represented at the IAAF World Cross Country Championships since 2009," said a statement from IAAF.

The World Cross Country Championships is the oldest of the IAAF World Athletics Series competitions, this year’s event will mark the 42nd staging of the global cross country championships.

It will also be the fifth time the championships will be hosted by an Africa city after Rabat (Morocco) in 1975, Stellenbosch in 1996 (South Africa), Marrakech (Morocco) in 1998 and Mombasa (Kenya) in 2007.

While Kampala is expected to add to that rich tradition that now spans more than four decades, it will also add a new chapter from the moment the gun sounds for the first race, which will be the inaugural mixed relay.

The 8km race will be contested by teams composed of two men and two women who will each run a 2km loop, in any order. The runners will pass a wrist band that serves as the baton through an exchange, or takeover zone, that’s 20m in length.

Adding to the anticipation of the pre-race build-up, the team’s composition needn’t be declared until 11:30 on race morning, less than three hours before the start.

The programme will then continue with the traditional races: a 6km U20 women’s race, an 8km U20 men’s race, a senior women’s 10km and senior men’s 10km.

Notably, Kampala marks the first time that senior women will race the same distance as the senior men.

Kenya has topped the medal tables at four of the past five editions, but its rivalry with Ethiopia is expected to remain fierce.

The two nations split the four individual titles in 2015 at two apiece, while Ethiopia captured 11 medals in all to Kenya’s nine.

Host Uganda is also expected to wage a strong battle for both individual and team crowns, with Eritrea and Bahrain also likely to play key roles in several of the medal fights.

Others expected in the mix for team medals include Turkey, the United States, Japan, and Great Britain & Northern Ireland.



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