Ethiopian Athletes Still A Threat
In Cross Country Events
As Kenya prepares to stage their selection event for the
March 28 Bydgoszcz World Cross, once again focus has
shifted to Komon and whether he can finally win
NAIROBI (Xinhua) -- For a country that produced more than its fair share of gifted cross country runners in the past, Kenya has had no answer to Ethiopia’s dominance of the men senior 12km individual title since the advent of six-time champion, Kenenisa Bekele.
Even on the two occasions Kenenisa faltered, at the Mombasa 2007 and Amman 2009 editions, the nation where the first two five-time winners, John Ngugi and Paul Tergat hailed from could still not find the legs to win a title that has eluded them since 1999 when the latter won his fifth 12km long race gold.
The task to restore Kenya’s glory in the recent past has fallen to Leonard Patrick Komon, who celebrated his 22nd birthday on Feb. 10.
Komon who entered the World Cross scene in 2006 when he won junior 6km silver, has established himself as the most consistent Kenyan exponent at the event.
He finished fourth the following year at Mombasa but it was at the Edinburgh 2008 edition where the world sat and took notice of his talent.
A smarting Kenenisa, who had seen his bid of becoming the first winner of six World Cross titles in successive years collapse in the heat of Mombasa, was out to atone for dropping out of the race at the very last lap allowing Eritrean Zersenay Tadese to claim glory.
The Kenyan contingent for that event had been sent out to ensure Tergat and Ngugi’s achievements were not surpassed and only Komon heeded the call as his teammates faded.
In an effort that earned him the nickname ‘the fighter’ Komon then, 20, took the fight to the Ethiopian phenomenon and in a frantic finish, fell only three second short of causing what would have amounted to one of the greatest upsets in the history of World Cross.
Injured before last year’s Amman World Cross, Komon could only finish 17th at Kenya’s selection event but in a demonstration of his status as his nation’s best bet at the event, Athletics Kenya (AK) decided to hand him wildcard entry.
However, Komon was not at his best even a day before the race but once on the cold, hard desert course of Amman, he still emerged Kenya’s best placed finisher in fourth and remarkably, missed the bronze medal by one second as yet another Ethiopian, Gebregziabher Gebremariam scored victory. Kenenisa was ruled out from the event through injury.
As Kenya prepares to stage their selection event for the March 28 Bydgoszcz World Cross, once again focus has shifted to Komon and whether he can finally win the title his consistent displays deserve.
"It could happen for me this year but first, I have to face my compatriots on Saturday to earn a ticket in the team.
"I’m not worried about my shape and I have no injuries to report," Komon said on Wednesday.
"I cannot explain why my teammates failed to win the senior title in Amman but on my part, I was only in the race to try my best since my (knee) injury that I had suffered earlier in the season was bothering me.
It’s time the 12km men individual title came home and we can learn from last year’s women team that won gold and silver for the first time ever and 15 years after the first individual title was won," the athlete added.
He was referring to Florence Kiplagat and Linet Masai 1-2 in the women’s senior 8km race that saw Kenya wrest the individual and team titles from Ethiopia.
Besides Kiplagat, who will miss this year’s campaign through injury sustained at the Berlin World Championships, Helen Chepngeno (1994) is the only other Kenyan female athlete to win the senior women’s World Cross individual title.
"If I make the team, I will not be afraid to lead it to the individual title but more than ever before, we need to work as a team.
"We always plan ahead on what to do but when we get to the course, I do not know why we fail to stick to the plan and coaches should work out how to avoid that this year," Komon stated.
Komon has warmed up for the selection event and global championships by enjoying an impressive campaign on the European IAAF Permit cross-country meetings in Spain.
His season began with a third finish in Llodio on Nov.22 before he improved to runner-up in Alcobendas on Decmber 6 last year.
On Jan. 17, he turned tables on Gebremariam in Santiponce for his first victory of the season that was followed up by another win Elgoibar (Jan. 27).
Komon returned home for training in Iten at a camp operated by his management company, Golazo Sports.
While Kenyan selection event for global athletics championships have been known to bury big names, the country can ill afford to present a squad in Poland minus the runner born in the conflict torn Mount Elgon region of Rift Valley Province.