•Athletics Kenya president Jack Tuwei said good performances in cross country events improves an athlete's global profile
•A high rank in the world system attracts more invitations for international athletics events and higher prize monies
•Tuwei expects heated competition at this Saturday's National Cross Country Championships
Athletics Kenya president Jack Tuwei wants athletes participating at the various cross country events locally and internationally to use them as a platform to enhance their profile.
Tuwei said athletes, especially upcoming, can improve their world rankings by performing well at cross country meets.
"Every event has a price and cross country has its own price. When an athlete performs well in a cross country event, his or her credentials in the world ranking system goes up. With a high rank worldwide comes more invitations to international events as well as higher prize monies because you are considered prestigious," Tuwei said.
Tuwei said — being a gruelling race — cross country builds an athlete's physical fitness levels in preparation for other events.
"Cross country is usually the first event of the year in our calendar. This is purposely to prepare athletes for the major events of the year, the most important this year being the Tokyo Olympics. We encourage all athletes to participate in the cross country series including sprinters and field athletes to prepare for their season," he said.
Tuwei was speaking on Tuesday morning ahead of the National Cross Country Championships slated for this Saturday at the Ngong Racecourse, Nairobi.
The championships will be used to select Team Kenya to the Africa Cross Country meet in Lome, Togo on May 1.
Tuwei said he expects strong competition in all the categories as most athletes are hungry to make up for a lost year due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
"When an athlete trains and is unable to compete, he or she may be left demoralised. My assessment of the cross country series so far and that of my colleagues is that the standards of the competition are so high," he said.
Some of the rivalries expected at Ngong include the battle between 10km women's defending champion Sheila Chelangat, Olympics 3000m steeplechase silver medalist Hyvin Kiyeng and possibly, world 5,000m champion Hellen Obiri.
In the men's category, defending champion and world half marathon record holder Kibiwott Kandie and his predecessor, Geoffrey Kamworor could renew their rivalry on the course, with 2015 World Cross Country Championships silver medallist Bedan Karoki adding spice into the mix.
After the trials, the selected athletes will retreat to a residential training camp at Kigari Teachers Training College, Embu to prepare for an assault on the continental crown. Tuwei urged fans to show up and cheer their favourite athletes.