Kenya’s Geoffrey Kamworor and Ethiopia’s Letesenbet Gidey are the first star names confirmed for the Memorial Agnes Tirop World Cross Country Tour, to be held in Eldoret on 12 February.
The announcement was made at the launch of the World Athletics Cross Country Tour Gold event, with Athletics Kenya and event organiser Barnaba Korir adding that further athletes will be confirmed in the coming days.
Three-time world cross country champion Kamworor, who was present during the launch of the event, said that he is looking forward to using it to test his endurance and speed against some of the world’s best cross country runners.
With the 29-year-old – who won his two senior world cross country titles in 2015 and 2017 following the U20 title he claimed in 2011 – already confirmed for the event, Kenyan fans are assured of a formidable opponent for other big names that could be added to the entry list from the neighbouring countries of Uganda and Ethiopia.
In the women’s event, the confirmation of two-time world U20 cross country champion Gidey, who set a world half marathon record of 1:02:52 in Valencia in October, sets the scene for an amazing race next month.
Some of the Kenyan athletes to join the elite fields will continue to be selected and invited following upcoming cross country races in Kenya that will culminate with the national championships to be held at the same venue on 22 January.
The major World Athletics Cross Country Tour races set to take place in the picturesque Lobo Village in Kapseret near Eldoret town will be the senior men’s and women’s 10km events that will be held in the afternoon. The morning session will include U20 races as part of the programme.
The event’s technical director, Ibrahim Hussein, explained that the course will feature hay, logs, hills and water sprays to help make it an exciting cross country event.
Dignitaries present during the launch included Kenya’s Cabinet Secretary for Sports, Heritage and Culture, Dr. Amina Mohamed, together with Athletics Kenya President Major Jackson Tuwei, Uasin Gishu County Governor Jackson Mandago and world marathon record-holder Eliud Kipchoge.
As well as Kipchoge and Kamworor, other prominent athletes in attendance included Faith Kipyegon, Moses Tanui, Jonathan Korir, Alice Aprot, Geoffrey Mutai, Leonard Komon and Rhonex Kipruto.
Also present were family representatives of the late Agnes Tirop, who expressed gratitude to the Kenyan athletics fraternity for being with them during the hard times following the death of their daughter, and for the decision to name the cross country event in memory of her.
In line with that, following Tirop’s alleged murder, much of the speeches focused on the fight to ensure that no more such deaths would occur in the Kenyan athletic community.
“It is sad to be naming races after young runners who would still be running them,” said two-time Olympic champion Kipchoge.
“It would be understandable if it were an accident or an illness,” he added. “If we want to change Kenya, we don’t have to be leaders holding any office, because if we don’t hold any offices, we have families to lead. We need to have values that reflect us.”
To honour Tirop, the Athletics Kenya president asked those present to stand and observe a minute of silence. He said that despite some of the great moments that 2021 offered, Tirop’s death was part of the darkest times, but it was an eye-opener in some way.
“We have already saved two women so far who were in a similar situation to Agnes, and are now in the process of finalising and working on the report we gathered from the consultative meetings with athletes across the country,” Tuwei said.
Athletics Kenya’s vice president, Paul Mutwii, expressed joy at Kenya’s opportunity to host the World Athletics Cross Country Tour event for the first time, and said that it was “overdue” given the success that Kenya has had in this discipline on the world stage.
Both the Cabinet Secretary for Sports and the County Governor of Uasin Gishu expressed their passion for working with and supporting the federation.