By Martin Mugambi
Jacob Kiplimo will run at this season’s second World Athletics Cross Country Tour in Atapuerca on Sunday.
This will present the 2020 World half marathon champion a perfect return from an injury that kept him out of the 2023 World Athletics Championships in Budapest.
The Sunday 9km contest will mark Kiplimo’s 11th appearance on Spanish soil, a place where the 22 year old Ugandan sensation’s worst finish has only been second place.
However, his 2023 season started on a high note with a gold medal at the World Cross Country Championships in Bathurst.
Further improving in Oslo with his 5000m lifetime best, clocking an impressive 12:41.73 for second place. God knows what his medal plate would have looked like this year if it wasn’t for a hamstring injury that put him out for the greater part of his season.
Kiplimo’s quest for victory won’t be an easy one to attain as he faces stiff competition from Burundi’s Rodrigue Kwizera, the 2022-23 Cross Country Tour winner and Eritrea’s Aron Kifle.
Kwizera dominated the previous campaign with four wins out of six Cross Country Tour Gold outings and boasts a 10km personal best of 26:56.
Meanwhile, Kifle, a former world half marathon bronze medallist, is set to bounce back strongly in Atapuerca, one of his favorite events.
Adding to the Ugandan presence in Atapuerca is Leonard Chemutai, fresh from a third-place finish in Amorebieta. Chemutai will be eager to make his mark in spain with a strong field of competitors who will include Bahrain’s Birhanu Balew the race promises to be a thrilling showdown.
In the women’s 8km Uganda’s Sarah Chelangat emerges as a formidable contender amidst strong competition.
The spotlight in this race may be on Kenya’s Beatrice Chebet, the reigning world cross country champion who has been on a remarkable winning streak, clinching a 5000m bronze at the World Championships in Budapest and a gold at the World Road Running Championships in Riga.
Chebet is also the defending champion in Atapuerca.
However, Sarah Chelangat, who impressively lowered her lifetime bests last season in the 3000m and 5000m, has shown her potential to vie for a podium spot.
Chelangat will face stiff competition from Chebet and her fellow Kenyan athletes, including Edinah Jebitok and Lucy Mawia among other athletes who include Aimee Pratt, the British holds the 3000m steeplechase world record.