Head coach Yilma Berta

Head coach Yilma Berta said his country’s absence in last year’s event left the field open and was partly why Kenya dominated. But they are in Cape Town to stamp their authority and bring some equilibrium on the medal bracket in the event, which is marking its second year in a row.

“We had a visa hitch and could not make it to Cape Town last year. But that is behind us now. As you can see we have done all we can to prepare this team and now what remains is for them to showcase their ability against what I expect to be a strong competition,” he said.

It is a challenge that Kenya coach Samson Katum is relishing saying his legion of elite runners are keen to take it in their strides and reaffirm to the world, that their victory in 2011 was no fluke.

“We are prepared. It has not been a pleasant preparation by any standards, but we have no reason to fail here.

“Everyone is focused on bringing the titles home and nothing short of the overall, team and individual crowns will appease us,” he said.

Eritrea coach Abebe Zeriwin, however is silently planning to steal the limelight from the Kenyans and Ethiopians and has asked his team to let the legs do the talking on the course today.

“I have a young but talented team. This is because we want top develop a team for the future. But I have blended in one or two senior athletes who will be guiding the others through the steps,” he said.

In his line up, Zeriwin has 2010 World Cross Country senior women fourth finisher Jekele Mariam to lead the onslaught together with Kidane Tadesse, the younger brother of Tesfaye Tadesse, who is a seasonal 5,000m runner.

“I like the weather here. The competition is also going to be good because we have the best athletes in the world. But the organisers need to give these athletes incentives in terms of monetary so that they can put in their best displays and have some compensation for their sacrifice and hard work,” he said.

Twenty-two countries are expected to compete in the championships, which is a bigger number compared to the 17 that made it in the inaugural event last year.

Confederation of African Athletics Vice- President David Okeyo, said the event is improving each year and said they will meet in Benin in June to discuss how they can introduce prize money.

By CHRIS MUSUMBA IN CAPE TOWN, The Standard

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