There was double delight for the Kenyans at last weekend's 41st running of the World Cross Country Championships, as they took both the men's and women's senior titles in the form of Geoffrey Kipsang and Agnes Jebet Tirop. The races were held for the first time in China in Guiyang, on a former horse racing course outside the city centre itself, and the African athletes as ever in recent years seemed to enjoy the experience tremendously across the board. Only athletes from Bahrain managed to break the East African stranglehold on the medal places, but even their athletes were mainly of African descent. Britain's athletes failed to make much of an impression on the races, with the likes of Mo Farah choosing to stay away from the event.
Kipsang, the current world half marathon champion, was a comfortable winner of the men's race by 8 seconds from his compatriot Bedan Karoki, with bronze going to Ethiopia's Muktar Edris. The individual success of the first two Kenyans could not prevent the Ethiopians from taking the team title though, just ahead of Kenya, with Bahrain packing well to claim third. Britain finished back in 15th place, with Charlie Hulson their top finisher in 55th.
Tirop, at just 19-years-old, became the second youngest-ever winner of the women's senior title behind Britain's Zola Budd (in 1985), having previously raced in the championships in 2013, where she finished second in the junior race that year. A brace of Ethiopians filled second and third places behind Tirop, as Senbere Teferi just had the measure of her teammate Netsanet Gudeta. As with the senior men's race, the team title in the women's event was also won by Ethiopia from Kenya, with Uganda this time taking the bronze medals. Gemma Steel finished a place ahead of Rhona Auckland with a creditable 18th position, who were the only two British athletes in the race.
Ethiopia claimed the two junior titles on offer, with the junior men's race going to Yasin Haji and the women's race going to the youngster Letesenbet Gidey. The junior women's race proved to be similar to the Ethiopian trials, as their athletes dominated the top placings, taking a clean sweep of the medals. Dera Dida finished just behind Gidey in second, with Etagegn Woldu completing the medallists as their team unsurprisingly clinched gold in the team race. For Britain, Alex George was their highest junior men finisher in 39th place, while Hannah Nuttall came 45th in the junior women's event.
By hosting the event this year, China maintained their presence as a major player in the hosting of the major global #Athletics competitions, following on from the Olympics in 2008 and their imminent hosting of this summer's World Athletics Championships in Beijing. Whether the Africans will be just as dominant on the track over the distance races in the summer, as they were over the country only time will tell, but hopefully there will be athletes representing Europe and America in the mix in what is supposed to be after all, a global sport.