Kenenisa Bekele in Mombasa (© Getty Images)
Mombasa, KenyaThe IAAF Press Conference on the eve of the 35th IAAF World Cross Country Championships was held today at the Hotel Whitesands in Mombasa.
In attendance were IAAF President Lamine Diack (SEN); IAAF General Secretary Pierre Weiss (FRA); Chairman of Athletics Kenya, Isaiah Kiplagat (KEN); Isaac Kalua (KEN) – CEO of the Local Organising Committee; and IAAF Ambassador Wilson Kipketer (DEN).
Athletes present were Kenenisa Bekele (ETH), the reigning five-time double World Cross Country champion; Pamela Chepchumba (KEN), third placer at the 2007 Kenyan Trials; 2003 World Junior Cross Country silver medallist; Lornah Kiplagat (NED), reigning World Road Running champion; and Moses Mosop (KEN), winner of the 2007 Kenyan Trials.
Kenenisa Bekele (ETH):
On why he decided to change his mind and compete at the championships:
It was at this competition that I first achieved fame. It's also in this competition that my fans have come to love to watch me. And I also know that my country has achieved a lot of fame as a result of my achievements in this competition. So as a result I decided that as long as I am able to run, why would I miss this? So I'm very excited to come to Mombasa.
On the change to the programme this year, with the elimination of the short course race:
My preparation didn’t change much because there's only one race. That was a very good set up. This will not affect my performance. However I do wish that there were both long and short races again. It would have given me a chance to test myself and do another double.
Is it important to defeat the Kenyans on Kenyan soil?
As I see it Kenyans should be happy, as this is a friendly competition. And I have come here to compete in a home country of my friends and rivals, and to compete with them here. That is an expression of the respect I have for them. When Ethiopians come to Kenya and, Kenyans come to Ethiopia to compete, it's an expression of our respect for each other.
On the hot and humid conditions in Mombasa:
I've never seen the World Cross Country take place in this kind of heat before. I don’t know what kind of conditions I will encounter, or what kind of difficulties I will encounter. But the difficulties will apply to all competitors. It will just make it interesting to see how it unfolds.
On winning a sixth long course title, breaking his tie with Kenyans Paul Tergat and John Ngugi:
If I were to break it tomorrow, I would just be overjoyed. Right now we are tied, so to win a sixth time would make me extremely happy.
Lornah Kiplagat (NED):
On competing in her native Kenya and her expectations:
It's great to be here, at my home away from home. I've come just to enjoy myself and to try and have a good race.
I was lucky enough a month ago to run the (Kenyan) national championships as a tryout for me. What I realized was that I was not actually running as a foreigner there. I was running as a home athlete.
I'm feeling great. I'm really optimistic. I know that many of my fans will be coming, there are several buses coming all the way from Eldoret, and many of them will be seeing me running for the first time. I hope I'm not going to disappoint them.
On how her training for a spring Marathon worked into her plans for this weekend:
This year was a bit different for me because four weeks from Sunday I'll be running the London Marathon. I was lucky last year that I didn't have to do the same. But I feel as strong as last year. My preparation went really well.
What is interesting here is that it is not only about the competition, it's also about the heat. It's about who is going to handle the heat better. And I think that's going to be the bigger challenge. Most of the people have the speed and condition. And I didn't mind coming here because of that at all. My training went really well so I thought I'd give it another shot.
Pamela Chepchumba (KEN):
On competing and home and her expectations for Saturday:
“I'm very happy that the race is in Kenya. I've been training very well and I hope to do very well tomorrow. There are many people who will be coming from home to watch us so that is very important.
So much will depend on the weather and on God. We'll just see tomorrow.
Moses Mosop (KEN):
Does he feel any pressure having to race against Kenenisa Bekele, the five-time defending double champion:
Tomorrow is a challenge for everybody. It's not only Kenenisa Bekele. It's the weather and conditions also. So we cannot only watch Bekele. You have to concentrate on running against everybody and on fighting the heat tomorrow.
On team competition and whether the Kenyan team have any tactics to defend their team title:
We're not really arranging anything special, but we really have to work as a team. But not to look at the others, and not for someone to work as a pacemaker. But we have to work as a team to see if we can retain the title and beat Ethiopia and the many other countries that are here. It will really depend on the weather. Because the weather and the conditions affects everyone in individual ways. We're just hoping for the best.
Our training camp went very well, but coming from altitude in Embu and arriving here, it was a little bit of a shock. So we can't really say what's going to happen.
Bob Ramsak for the IAAF