It is universally accepted the Kenyan trials for the IAAF World Cross are more difficult than the biennial global showpiece itself.
It is much harder to win any of the four races at the Kenyan Trials than it is to face the best the world has to offer-bar the Ethiopian challenge- against the loaded line-ups at senior and junior levels.
Japan based Bedan Karoki, won the coveted men 12km senior title as Kenya selected her much vaunted provisional squad of 26 for the Guiyang World Cross in China to lead the queue of those in the running for the Holy Grail of the global event when it runs on March 28.
Karoki, who accomplished the rare feat of defending his domestic title from last year, is raring to be the sixth Kenyan winner of the biggest prize in cross country running and in the process, snap a long running curse.
For decades, emerging victorious at the signature race at the Kenyan Trials has not translated into winning the main prize at the world event itself, with only three domestic champions accounting for the 13 senior men World Cross titles the country has won in her glittering history at the competition.
Retired legends, John Ngugi (1986) and Paul Tergat (1995 and 96), who won the senior title five times apiece; are the only once to have left Nairobi as domestic senior cross titleholders and returned with the world title.
Three other winners, Willliam Sigei (1994 and 95), Joseph Ebuya (2010) and defending champion, Japheth Korir (2013) who will not defend his crown after perishing at Saturday’s trials in Nairobi, were all vanquished at home.
At the Bydgoszcz World Cross last term, Philemon Rono went in as domestic long race champion only to slump to 36th as Korir stunned everyone including himself to become the youngest ever senior 12km gold medallist at 19 years.
Major Paul Koech, who beat Tergat on three occasions in Nairobi, never won the World Cross and Rono (2013), Geoffrey Mutai (2011), Paul Tanui (2010), Moses Mosop (2009) and Gideon Ngatuny (2008) won the last five editions without success at the subsequent World Cross.
“I’m looking forward to do something in China. I knew no one would follow me through in the last 1K and when they relented, I went for it. I had lost hope but after recovering, I did some training and came here determined to make the team,” Karoki, who won the Kenyan trial in 35:08, said after his victory where he out-kicked the furiously chasing World Half Marathon champion, Geoffrey Kipsang for the honours.
“It would be very important for him to win the World Cross title but it will be difficult to do it but he is determined. He was sick but he recovered and showed he is a smart guy who knows what to do,” his manager, Federico Rosa, said in supporting his client’s bid to reverse the hoodoo.
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