Injury continues to hold back world record holder
For the third year in a row, world and Olympic champion Kenenisa Bekele will miss the IAAF World Cross Country Championships.
The Ethiopian, who has racked up a record 11 individual gold medals at the World Cross – as well as seven team titles – missed most of last year due to a calf injury. His one appearance came at the Bupa Great Edinburgh Cross in January, where he finished an uncharacteristic fourth.
It was hoped that a good winter would see him overcome his injury and return to the cross country in time for the IAAF World Cross Country in Punta Umbria, Spain on March 20, but Bekele has lost his race against time to be fit for the event.
“He has been able to train and has worked on his endurance, but he does not want to cut corners,” said his agent Jos Hermens.
The absence of Bekele – the most decorated endurance athlete in track and cross events over the past decade – is the latest in a long line of blows for cross-country running, an area of the sport that has been in crisis in recent years.
The uptake for future host cities has been extremely poor, while more and more European countries refuse to send teams to the event, given the general lack of interest and the dominance of African athletes.
With Bekele having achieved so much throughout his glittering career, he was one of the few African athletes to become a huge name in the sport, one of the global icons up there with the likes of Usain Bolt and Yelena Isinbayeva. His absence from yet another World Cross will be sorely felt.
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Will Bekele ever get back to his best?