Previews02 Feb 2023

Kipyegon and Mburu the headliners at Sirikwa Cross Country Classic


Faith Kipyegon winning at the 2016 Cinque Mulini cross country meeting (© Giancarlo Colombo / organisers)

Faith Kipyegon, Stanley Waithaka Mburu and Linet Maasai are among the big names expected to be in action at the Sirikwa Cross Country Classic – a World Athletics Cross Country Tour Gold event – at the Lobo village in Eldoret on Saturday (4).

The event is the third big cross country competition to take place in Kenya in the past two weeks, following on from the Kenyan Championships (21 January), and the Discovery Cross Country event in Eldoret (29 Jan).

The Kenyan team heading to Australia for the World Athletics Cross Country Championships Bathurst 23 have had to skip this weekend’s race, but despite that, it should still be an exciting spectacle as established stars take on up-and-coming talents from Kenya and the rest of the world.

“The elite invitation lists have been drawn out of the top five finishers in the Athletics Kenya Cross Country series meetings, fifteen from the Discovery Cross Country event, and the top fifty from the national cross country championships,” said Milcah Chemos, athletes representative.

Kipyegon, two-time world and Olympic 1500m champion, will be the big attraction in the senior women’s 10km race. The 29-year-old, who is also a two-time world U20 cross-country champion, will face strong domestic opposition from 2016 world half marathon silver medallist Cynthia Limo, 2016 Kenyan 1500m champion Judith Kiyeng and 2019 African Games champion Quailyne Kiprop. Zenah Jemutai Yego, the 2021 world U20 3000m silver medallist, will be one of the emerging stars to watch out for.

Bahrain’s 2017 world marathon champion Rose Chelimo, Slovenian steeplechaser Marusa Mismas-Zrimsek and Romania’s Stella Rutto are among the international contenders.

World 10,000m silver medallist Stanley Waithaka Mburu leads the entries in the men’s race, but he’ll have his work cut out. Charles Lokir, fresh from winning the national cross country title, looks poised to improve upon his fifth-place finish in this event last year. The other two podium finishers at the recent Kenyan Cross Country Championships, Isaac Kibet and Dennis Kipngetich, will also be racing.

World U20 5000m champion Benson Kiplangat and Amos Serem, the 2021 world U20 steeplechase champion, are the other leading Kenyan entrants, while the international contenders include Eritrea’s Merhawi Mebrahtu, Burundi’s Oscar Niyonzima, Norway’s Sondre Moen, Sweden’s Emil Millan de la Oliva and Turkey’s Hillary Yego.

The event, which last year was named in memoriam of Agnes Tirop, has changed its name this year to the Sirikwa Cross Country Classic. ‘Sirikwa’ is the name of the ancient tribe who used to live in Uasin Gishu before colonial times.

The Sirikwa Classic will be seen as an event to celebrate not only athletics but the culture and heritage of the North and Central Rift region. More than 10,000 fans are expected to turn up to witness the event.

Along with the senior 10km races, there will also be a mixed relay and events for U20, U18 and kids.

Justin Lagat for World Athletics

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