Sarah Chelangat wins the cross-country race at the Buenos Aires 2018 Youth Olympic Games (OIS/IOC) © Copyright
Preview Aarhus, Denmark

U20 women's preview: Chelangat to challenge Kenyan and Ethiopian dominance

Between them, Ethiopia and Kenya have won all of the 26 women's U20 team titles in IAAF World Cross Country Championships history. Kenya has taken the top spot in 15 editions to Ethiopia's 11, and in all but six editions they have occupied the top two spots.

You have to go back 24 years to 1995 to find the last individual winner not from either of these countries too, when Annemari Sandell of Finland struck gold in Durham and the two countries have enjoyed a clean sweep of the individual podium in every edition since 1999, when Japanese athlete Yoshiko Fujinaga made the podium in third.

But there's a chance the Kenya-Ethiopia party could be spoiled at the IAAF/Mikkeller World Cross Country Championships Aarhus 2019.

Uganda's Sarah Chelangat (5000m world rank: 81) took gold at the Youth Olympic Games last year after winning the 3000m and cross-country races. The 17-year-old also finished second at the African Youth Championships and fourth at the World U20 Championships.

Chelangat formed part of Uganda's bronze medal-winning team in Kampala two years ago and she once again forms part of a strong national squad.

But Chelangat certainly won't have an easy ride. World U20 5000m champion Beatrice Chebet (5000m world rank: 54) won the Kenyan Cross Country Championships in dominant fashion last month and will start as one of the favourites to take the global title in Aarhus. She will be backed up by Betty Kibet and Jackline Rotich, second and third at the Kenyan Championships respectively.

Girmawit Gebrzihair (5000m world rank: 116), the 2018 African U20 cross-country champion, took the Ethiopian title last month and will be hoping to keep the individual title in her nation, as well as lead the Ethiopian squad to their third successive team title, backed up by Alemitu Tariku, Tsige Gebreselama, Meselu Berhe and Wede Kefale, who all finished within eight seconds of each other in the Ethiopian Trials.

European U20 cross-country champion Nadia Battocletti (5000m world rank: 138) of Italy was the top European two years ago in Kampala in 34th and will be among those leading the continental charge in Aarhus 2019, too. Her background in mountain running may stand her in good stead for the challenging hills on the course in Aarhus.

Switzerland's Delia Sclabas (800m world rank: 79; 1500m world rank 82), the European U20 cross-country silver medallist, could also be among the challengers. Canadian Taryn O'Neill (1500m world rank 231) starts in good form too, fresh from her NACAC victory last month, where she led teammates Charlotte Wood and Makenna Fitzgerald to a podium sweep.

Host country Denmark boasts a full team, fielding six athletes ready to take on the innovative course over the rooftop of the Moesgaard Museum in front of what is expected to be a large and supportive crowd.

Japan has taken 15 team bronze medals in U20 race history so should not be ruled out, despite the fact that only one of their team members from two years ago, sixth scorer Hikari Ohnishi (1500m world rank: 302), is on the start list.

Athletes from 29 countries are entered.

Emily Moss for the IAAF