NAIROBI, March 25 (Xinhua) -- Champion Geoffrey Kamworor faces a new challenge from Uganda in his quest to win a third straight World Cross Country title in Aarhus, Denmark on Saturday.
Uganda's World junior cross country champion Jacob Kiplimo and Commonwealth Games 10,000m champion Joshua Cheptegei will add on the Ethiopian challenge as Kenyan runners come under attack in their bid to dominate the competition, which returns to Europe after Kampala, Uganda in 2017 and Guiyang, China in 2015.
"Uganda are quickly closing the gap and the new generation of athletes have been pitching camp and training in Kenya. It will be hard, but such is the goodness of cross country that you cannot afford to look down upon anyone. Ethiopia, USA and Bahraini have more Kenyan runners and it will be hard," said Kamworor on Monday in Embu.
According to IAAF, this year's World Cross Country Championships in Aarhus will have a total of 582 elite runners from 67 countries and regions.
Team Kenya, which has finished its three week residential training in Embu, is due to depart for the Danish City on Wednesday.
"More than 300 athletes (171 men, 139 women) have been confirmed entered for the individual senior races, while more than 200 (121 men, 111 women) will be in action in the U-20 junior races. Ten teams have been entered for the mixed relay," said a statement by IAAF.
With Kamworor having won the senior title two years ago, he will have a new challenger in the former junior champion Jacob Kiplimo of Uganda.
Kenyan cross-country champion Amos Kirui and Ethiopian champion Mogos Tuemay are also expected to be strong challengers.
In the senior women's race, world 5,000m champion Hellen Obiri will line up against steeplechase world record-holder Beatrice Chepkoech, two-time world junior cross-country champion Letesenbet Gidey of Ethiopia and Commonwealth 10,000m champion Stella Chesang.
Double European champion Jakob Ingebrigtsen will contest the U-20 men's race, taking on the likes of Kenyan Under-20 champion Samuel Chebolei and world U18 steeplechase champion Leonard Bett.
Sarah Chelangat, Youth Olympic champion at 3,000m and cross country, is among the favorites for the U-20 women's race along with world U-20 5,000m champion Beatrice Chebet of Kenya and African U-20 cross-country champion Girmawit Gebrzihair of Ethiopia.
Kenya is expected to defend their title in the mixed relay with the help of world and Olympic steeplechase champion Conseslus Kipruto and world 1,500m champion Elijah Manangoi.