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HomeAthleticsWho, what and when information: World Cross Nation Champs

Who, what and when information: World Cross Nation Champs

Every part you have to learn about Saturday’s world occasion within the Serbian capital of Belgrade, together with an early take a look at the course

It seems like summer time has arrived early in Belgrade. The Serbian capital’s Park of Friendship – the venue for this weekend’s World Cross Nation Championships – is blooming with daisies and dandelions. A contemporary wind rips throughout the fields from the close by Danube and Sava rivers. Beneath blue skies, temperatures are nice and forecast to rise even additional forward of the races on Saturday.

As cross-country programs go, the Park of Friendship isn’t probably the most thrilling. This sizeable space of grassland to the east of town is pretty flat and featureless. World Athletics are onerous at work this week, although, developing varied obstacles to make it tougher for the athletes and spectator-friendly for followers.

A number of the rivals are already within the metropolis, too, with runners from Australia, New Zealand and Japan getting an early style of the course on Wednesday (March 27) after lengthy flights to Europe. They’re excited by the prospect of working what some nonetheless preserve is “the hardest race on the earth”, an occasion the place milers meet marathoners in a showdown to find the very best all-round runner on the planet.

Australian runners take a look at the course

Lots of the different groups are attributable to arrive on Thursday. This features a British squad which is proudly one in every of a small variety of ever-present nations to attend each version of the trendy World Cross because it started in 1973. The five-strong checklist of “World Cross ever-presents” is down to only 4 international locations this 12 months, nevertheless, with GB, France, Spain and america sustaining their streak however Italy now becoming a member of the checklist of nations who select to offer this occasion a miss.

It’s 5 years since Aarhus in Denmark staged what Seb Coe described as a “watershed second”. The course was imaginative and picturesque, with runners racing up the grassy roof of a Viking museum, whereas there have been massive crowds because of mass races going down alongside the elite occasions.

World Cross in Aarhus in 2019

After a Covid-enforced hiatus, Bathurst in Australia took up the baton in respectable fashion with an pleasing championship 12 months in the past. Given this, Belgrade has a few powerful acts to comply with, however earlier than dashing to judgement don’t overlook this week’s venue may be very a lot World Athletics’ plan B as a result of authentic occasion – in Croatia in mid-February – being pulled as a result of preparations have been behind.

On Saturday we are going to see 245 athletes from 51 nations in motion. It’s greater than Bathurst noticed final 12 months however barely down on Aarhus in 2019 and Kampala in 2017. Disappointingly, together with Italy there are additional no-shows from nations like Germany, Belgium, Finland, Turkey and Switzerland, amongst others. The solitary Dutch entrant, Sifan Hassan, has withdrawn, which suggests there is no such thing as a Netherlands, whereas Norway’s solely competitor is three-time European champion Karoline Bjerkeli Grøvdal.

The busiest championships in historical past, by the way, was Vilamoura in 2000 when 806 athletes from 76 nations took half. These included Derartu Tulu, Paula Radcliffe and a younger Mo Farah. There have been, it needs to be added, additionally short-course races again then however no combined relay.

This isn’t to recommend that the 2024 line-ups will probably be poor. The senior races have nonetheless attracted most of the world’s high endurance runners and you’ll assure that a number of of the comparatively unknown east Africans who make their mark within the under-20 races will go on to make Olympic podiums.

Belgrade 2013 (Mark Shearman)

So what can they anticipate on Saturday? The European Cross Nation Championships was staged in the identical Park of Friendship venue 11 years in the past (pictured above) and I wrote in AW on the time: “The Serbian capital placed on an honest present … on a spectator-friendly course that includes agency floor, surprisingly delicate temperatures (mid-December) and a random log that was barely a foot excessive designed to interrupt the rhythm of runners on every of the 1500m laps.”

Sand-covered paths in Belgrade

When AW seemed on the course on Wednesday, three days earlier than the races, the floor was agency and dry in components however some sections have been extra ‘turf-like’ with thicker grass. Some biking and jogging lanes have been lined by sand (see above). Clearly and never surprisingly with a couple of days nonetheless to go, World Athletics are nonetheless working to finish sure sections too.

Hay maze in Belgrade

Some small bridges with a blue floor have been constructed to offer the runners at the least a few “hills” on every lap. There may be additionally a “hay maze” for runners to both zig-zag by means of or, in some circumstances, maybe hurdle.

A small part of floor had additionally been dug up (see under), presumably to be crammed with water on the eve of the race to create a brief “mud impediment”. One coach informed AW on Wednesday that it seemed like an “ankle-breaker” for the time being but it surely might resemble a bit of sludge when it issues this weekend.

One other a part of the course has been described because the “treeline” with a variety of small newly planted timber for runners to weave previous. There are plans to have musical sections, too, whereas the sizeable ending straight flanked by a tribune will see runners race towards the park’s Everlasting Flame memorial.

Synthetic hill in Belgrade

The athletes may also be racing in an historic setting as a variety of timber within the Park of Friendship have been planted by royalty or political heads of state akin to Queen Elizabeth II, Jimmy Carter, Fidel Castro, Richard Nixon and Indira Ghandi amongst others. It needs to be a grand event though it’s unlikely to go down in historical past because the hardest cross-country course ever devised, partly due to the unseasonably heat and dry temperatures.

Most athletes will get their first style of the course on Friday when the standard strolling – or in lots of circumstances working – of the course will happen. Elsewhere within the metropolis, Seb Coe, the president of World Athletics, will entrance a press convention on Saturday together with athletes akin to Grøvdal, reigning champions Beatrice Chebet of Kenya and Jacob Kiplimo of Uganda plus one of many Serbian athletes Elzan Bibic.

Treeline part

Kiplimo has his work reduce out in his title defence within the senior males’s race as he faces Ugandan team-mate and 2019 world cr0ss-country champion Joshua Cheptegei along with final 12 months’s runner-up Berihu Aregawi of Ethiopia.

It needs to be a terrific race with Cheptegei successful the final three world 10,000m titles, Olympic 5000m gold and setting world 5000m and 10,000m data, whereas Kiplimo, the 2023 winner in Bathurst, is the world half-marathon record-holder.

Look out as effectively for world half-marathon champion Sabastian Sawe and final 12 months’s world under-20 champion Ishmael Kipkirui, each from Kenya. Tadese Worku of Ethiopia must also characteristic together with Ethiopian trials winner and final 12 months’s under-20 bronze medallist Boki Diriba.

Jacob Kiplimo (Getty)

Chebet gained an exhilarating senior girls’s race 12 months in the past when she sprinter previous a faltering Letesenbet Gidey. There is no such thing as a Gidey this time however Chebet can have powerful opposition from fellow Kenyans Agnes Ngetich, the bronze medallist from 2023, and Kenyan championships runner-up Emmaculate Anyango.

Since successful in Bathurst, Chebet has gone from power to power, too, with victory on the earth 5km in Riga final October. The in-form Ngetich set a world 10km document with an astounding 28:46 in Valencia in January, although.

The Kenyan crew additionally has Lilian Rengeruk and Margaret Chelimo Kipkemboi, each of whom took silver medals – at 5km and half marathon – in Riga final 12 months.

Can the Ethiopians match the Kenyans in Belgrade? Their girls’s crew is led by Ethiopian trials winner Girmawit Gebrzihair and Amsterdam Marathon winner Tadelech Bekele.

Beatrice Chebet wins as Gidey falls (Getty)

The under-20 races are notoriously onerous to foretell. The one factor that’s sure is that runners from east Africa are sure to dominate.

The boys’s race contains Kenyan trials winner Samuel Kibathi and African under-20 cross-country champion Gideon Kipngetich, additionally from Kenya, plus Abel Bekele of Ethiopia, who was seventh final 12 months.

The under-20 girls’s race, in the meantime, contains Ethiopia’s Lemlem Nibret, who completed fifth in Bathurst, along with Nancy Cherop of Kenya, however there will probably be a lot curiosity in how Innes FitzGerald, the European champion from Britain, fares in opposition to them.

Innes FitzGerald (Getty)

Within the combined relay, in the meantime, a Kenyan crew that features Emmanuel Wanyonyi, Reynold Cheruiyot and Purity Chepkirui will face an Ethiopian squad led by world 5km champion Hagos Gebrhiwet. Kenya gained the inaugural title in 2017 and likewise final 12 months in Bathurst whereas Ethiopia gained in 2019.

Total, Kenya will probably be aiming to take care of their supremacy over Ethiopia. Since 1973 the Kenyans have gained 334 medals with Ethiopia totting up 285 and america 65.

The complete British crew is right here though it doesn’t embrace any race-week adjustments to the squad which may happen.

You can even learn our pre-championship interviews with British crew members…

» Calum Johnson on why ditching triathlon for athletics is paying off – click on right here.

» Adam Fogg appears to be like again on his rollercoaster indoor season earlier than racing the combined relay in Belgrade – click on right here.

» Alice Goodall talks about making her GB senior debut after successful European under-23 10,000m gold final 12 months – click on right here.

» Eliza Nicholson has gone from desirous to carry out on the West Finish to now racing within the World Cross – click on right here.

Extra interviews will probably be showing on our web site and social media channels this week. Control our on-line protection right here.

Timetable – Saturday March 30 (native occasions)
11am – girls’s under-20 race
11.35am – males’s under-20 race
12.15pm – combined relay
12.45pm – senior girls’s race
13.30pm – senior males’s race

Serbia is one hour forward of the UK, so the races will begin 10am in Britain.

Many viewers ought to be capable of see the races by way of the Eurovision Sport web site or the World Athletics YouTube channel.

» Subscribe to AW journal right here


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