The World Cross Country happened in Belgrade, Serbia, on March 30, 2024. The performances were always impressive, but fewer than a stellar number of European countries were at the event, just a few hours from their major airport. Many countries are unhappy with the relative tameness of the cross-country courses, and the unseasonable heat is another factor. Another factor is the feeling, by many Europeans, that they do not stand a chance of being medalized with Kenya, Ethiopia, and Uganda in attendance. 

The meet was spectacular, showcasing Ethiopia, Kenya, and Uganda at all levels. 

This story is by Deji Ogeyingbo, and I apologize for the delay. 

Cross country is a beautiful part of our sport. I hope World Athletics President Seb Coe, who loves cross country, can devise a solution, perhaps going old school and new school. A tough course in the winter could make it more exciting and more than a competitive road race on manicured lawns. 

Kudos to Belgrade, Serbia, for taking the race at the last minute and putting on a world-class event!

Dynamic Duo: Jacob Kiplimo and Beatrice Chebet Shine at 2024 World Athletics Cross Country Championships

The 2024 World Athletics Cross Country Championships unfolded strikingly to the previous year’s event in Australia. Once again, Uganda’s Jacob Kiplimo and Beatrice Chebet of Kenya showcased their dominance by clinching individual titles in the men’s and women’s senior races, mirroring their triumphs from the prior year.

Beatrice Chebet takes the second title, WXC, Belgrade, Serbia, 2024, photo by Randy Miyazaki, for Track and Field photo Magazine

Adding to the déjà vu, Samuel Kibathi of Kenya and Marta Alemayo of Ethiopia claimed victory in the U20 races for the second consecutive year. Notably, the team gold followed suit, with Ethiopia clinching the U20 women’s team title and Kenya securing the remaining four men’s and women’s senior, men’s U20, and mixed relay.

Even the weather echoed the Australian backdrop as the races unfolded under uncharacteristically hot, sunny conditions at Friendship Park along the Danube River, with temperatures soaring above 80 degrees Fahrenheit by the start of the senior races.

A notable departure from the previous year’s competition in Bathurst was the formidable display by the Kenyan women, who swept the senior race podium with a remarkable 1-2-3-4-5 finish, leaving competitors from other nations trailing by more than 30 seconds.

Jacob Kiplimo takes second World XC title, by Randy Miyazaki for Track and Field photo magazine.

The Kenyan contingent surged ahead three laps into the five-lap, 10-kilometer race, culminating in a gripping sprint finish between Chebet, world road 5k silver medalist Lilian Rengeruk, and two-time Worlds track medalist Margaret Kipkemboi. Ultimately, Chebet (31:05) emerged victorious, edging out Rengeruk (31:08) and Kipkemboi (31:09) in a thrilling dash to the finish line.

On the men’s side, Jacob Kiplimo executed a flawless strategy reminiscent of his inaugural World XC victory 13 months prior. Despite several early surges and breakaway attempts, Kiplimo remained composed, conserving his energy and trusting in his fitness.

He moved with just under a mile to go, leaving Berihu Aregawi of Ethiopia and Benson Kiplangat of Kenya to battle for the silver medal. Kiplimo crossed the finish line in 28:09, securing his second consecutive title, with Aregawi (28:12) and Kiplangat (28:14) following closely behind.

Notably, Kiplimo’s compatriot Joshua Cheptegei, a former World XC champion, finished sixth (28:24), prompting questions about his form. Anthony Rotich emerged as the top American finisher in 22nd place (29:22).

Reflecting on his victory, Kiplimo expressed pride in joining the ranks of esteemed athletes such as Paul Tergat and Kenenisa Bekele as a repeat champion at the World XC. He acknowledged the challenges this year’s competition posed, emphasizing the significance of his triumph in a fiercely contested race.

“Today, the guys were strong,” remarked Kiplimo. “This one was hard for me, actually. Even I doubted if I was going to win… I aspire to emulate the legends. They have conquered numerous races. My goal is to strive for greatness consistently.”