By Brett Davies
The 44th Edition of the World Cross Country Championships was officially launched on Friday (17/2) at the Press Conference for the 2023 Championships held at the Rydges Hotel at Mount Panorama.
World Athletics President Sebastian Coe gave a speech in which he lamented the various COVID-related challenges to the scheduling of international events over recent years and extolled the virtues of cross country and talked about how cross country is the “ideal foundation for any aspiring distance athete”.
Mr Coe spoke of Aarhus 2019 and this year’s event as a “return to traditional cross country “. He spoke of how cross country runners relish the challenge of hills, tight turns and obstacles and Coe was effusive in his praise of both the course – a course which he described as “one of the toughest ever World Cross-Country courses” – and for Australian organisers, who he felt had done remarkably well in putting together this event. Coe also suggested that cross country could eventually be included in the Olympics.
Mr Coe also spoke of potentially rescheduling some international events, both the time of day and time of year, given the impact of climate change and the potential risk to athletes-particularly the danger presented by high temperatures.
When questioned about the banning of Russian athletes, Mr Coe was reticent in giving too many details, as the return of the Russian Federation was contingent on the findings of a specially-convened Task Force currently investigating the measures taken by the Russians that could extent control over doping in Russia. World Athetics has scheduled a A meeting of their Council on March 23rd.
The 2023 World Cross-Country Championships Ambassador, five-time Champion Paul Tergat, spoke at the conference and echoed Mr Coe’s sentiments about the course and felt cross country was the ideal preparation for a career in distance running. Mr Tergat also relished the challenges of a tough course and spoke of how overcoming both his rivals and a tough course was deeply satisfying.
We also were privileged to have a few of the athletes competing present at the conference. Two of the superstars of the Men’s Open 10km – Geoffrey Kamworor (KEN) and Joshua Cheptegei (UGA) – spoke of their friendly rivalry over the years and their love of cross country. Kamworor said his love of cross country has kept him away from a focus on the marathon and he says that his triumphs in the event have been the high point of his career. Cheptegei spoke of how his disappointing run at home in Kampala in 2017 spurred him on to become the athlete he is today.
Steeplechase champion Emma Coburn (USA), running the 4x2km mixed relay, spoke of her passion for the sport and of how the recent death of her mother, while incredibly devastating, has spurred her on. She realised that she can honour her mother by performing well over cross country and the track.
Local favourite Jess Hull, following a tradition of great athletes from the Illawarra region, is determined to do her country proud. Jess spoke of how she started out in cross country as a primary school girl at the Albion Park Racetrack and has retained a love for the sport ever since. She is clearly excited about competing at home in a well-credentialled Australian team that have a realistic chance of victory.
Stay tuned. This should be one of the greatest athletics events in the history of the sport in this country.