IAAF World Cross Preview: Can Kenya End Ethiopia's Women Under 20 Reign?

Mar 28 - by IAAF for SportPesa News

However, there is a guarantee that there will be a new individual champion, as the 2015 and 2017 U20 champion, Letesenbet Gidey, has moved up to the senior race

Beatrice Chebet on her way to winning the world U20 5000m title. PHOTO/IAAF

  • You have to go back 24 years to 1995 to find the last individual winner not from either of these countries too, when Annemari Sandell of Finland struck gold in Durham and the two countries have enjoyed a clean sweep of the individual podium in every edition since 1999, when Japanese athlete Yoshiko Fujinaga made the podium in third
  • Girmawit Gebrzihair (5000m world rank: 116), the 2018 African U20 cross country champion, took the Ethiopian title last month and will be hoping to keep the individual title in her nation, as well as lead the Ethiopian squad to their third successive team title
  • World U20 5000m champion Beatrice Chebet (5000m world rank: 54) won the Kenyan Cross Country Championships in dominant fashion last month and will start as one of the favourites to take the global title in Aarhus. She will be backed up by Betty Kibet and Jackline Rotich, second and third in the Kenyan Championships

AARHUS, Denmark- Between them, Ethiopia and Kenya have won all of the 26 women's U20 team titles in IAAF World Cross Country Championships history. Kenya have taken the top spot in 15 editions to Ethiopia's 11 and in all but six editions, they have occupied the top two spots. 

You have to go back 24 years to 1995 to find the last individual winner not from either of these countries too, when Annemari Sandell of Finland struck gold in Durham and the two countries have enjoyed a clean sweep of the individual podium in every edition since 1999, when Japanese athlete Yoshiko Fujinaga made the podium in third.

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Despite a more traditional cross country course than two years ago, looking at the line up, it looks unlikely that any other nation will spoil the East African party at the IAAF/Mikkeller World Cross Country Championships Aarhus 2019 either.

However, there is a guarantee that there will be a new individual champion, as the 2015 and 2017 U20 champion, Letesenbet Gidey, has moved up to the senior race.

World U20 5000m champion Beatrice Chebet (5000m world rank: 54) won the Kenyan Cross Country Championships in dominant fashion last month and will start as one of the favourites to take the global title in Aarhus. She will be backed up by Betty Kibet and Jackline Rotich, second and third in the Kenyan Championships.

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Girmawit Gebrzihair (5000m world rank: 116), the 2018 African U20 cross country champion, took the Ethiopian title last month and will be hoping to keep the individual title in her nation, as well as lead the Ethiopian squad to their third successive team title, backed up by Alemitu Tariku, Tsige Gebreselama, Meselu Berhe and Wede Kefale, who all finished within eight seconds of each other in the Ethiopian Trials.

European U20 Cross Country Champion Nadia Battocletti (5000m world rank: 138) of Italy was the top European two years ago in Kampala in 34th and will be among those leading the continental charge in Aarhus 2019, too.

Delia Sclabas (800m world rank: 79; 1500m world rank 82) of Switzerland, the European Cross Country U20 silver medallist, could also be among the challengers. 

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Canadian Taryn O'Neill (1500m world rank 231) starts in good form too, fresh from her NACAC victory last month, where she led teammates Charlotte Wood and Makenna Fitzgerald to a podium sweep.

Host country Denmark boasts a full team, fielding six athletes ready to take on the innovative course over the rooftop of the Moesgaard Museum in front of what is expected to be a large and supportive crowd.

In the team race, Uganda took bronze two years ago and could repeat this feat, spearheaded by Youth Olympic Games 3000m champion Sarah Chelangat (5000m world rank: 81).

However, Japan has taken 15 team bronze medals in U20 race history so should not be ruled out, despite the fact that only one of their team members from two years ago, sixth scorer Hikari Ohnishi (1500m world rank: 302), is on the start list.

Athletes from 29 countries are entered.

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-Report by Emily Moss for the IAAF