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Mokoka takes on Africa

The African Cross-Country Championships will be contested in Rondebosch, Cape Town on Sunday. Normally a spot for some peaceful Sunday dog walking, expect some really nailbiting dog-fights to develop between the continent’s top off-road runners.

The Keurboom Park sportsfields are the venue as runners go toe to toe over laps of two kilometres each (senior men run 12km and senior women 8km). Juniors will run 8km (boys) and 6km (girls).

A total of 14 countries are expected to fight for honours with each country allowed a maximum of 24 athletes (six in each category).

With Ethiopia still to finalise their teams, Kenya would normally be the favourites for the senior men’s competition. However, their top runner for these championships, 21-year-old Stephen Kiprotich, only finished eighth at the Kenyan National Championships in February, boasts a fourth and fifth placed finish at Eldoret and Iten cross-country races in Kenya in January, but his best 3┬á000m, 5 000m and half marathon times are not as fast as those of South Africa’s Steven Mokoka.

This should make for some interesting racing come Sunday as Mokoka is one of the country’s top runners at present and boasts the SA 1 500m, 10 000m, 10km and 21.1km championship titles, as well as being the current cross-country champion.

The rest of the Kenyan men’s team is also very young but that means very little in the world of middle distance and cross-country racing, especially when one considers just how dominant the men from the Rift Valley have been over the years.

Mokoka is in scintillating form after running a sub-eight minute 3┬á000m in Potchefstroom last month; this after winning a 10km road race that very same morning. He is South Africa’s best shot at a podium position and should be our best-placed finisher in the team category.

What happens behind him then becomes vital, as the times of the top four finishers per country are added up to determine the final position of the country in the team category.  Plus, the playing fields as to what happens behind Kiprotich and Mokoka are fairly level with the rest of the South African and Kenyan team at around the same level.

Throw in the likes of Abderrahim El Asri (Morroco ÔÇô 3 000m in 8:01.37; 5 000m in 13:53.47; 10┬á000m in 28:40.7; 10km in 29:48 and 21km in 62:21) and compatriot Aziz Lahbabi (1┬á500m in 3:44.48; 3┬á000m in 8:09; 5 000 m in 13:28.92; bronze medal at the World Junior Athletics Championships in the 5 000m) and the result is by no means a foregone conclusion.


2 comments
Mark Etheridge
Mark Etheridge

HI there R.. of course, you are quite correct. Maths is a bugbear!. P.S I have referred your other cross-country query to James Evans and will await his response!

Ronnie
Ronnie

"A total of 14 countries are expected to fight for honours with each country allowed a maximum of 24 athletes (four in each category)." The calculation doesn' t add up. It is 6 athletes per team and not four as you mentioned.