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By John Kwoba

 

NAIROBI, March 23 (Xinhua) -- Kenya's track legend Paul Tergat has urged athletes to take cross country competitions seriously as it boosts their performances during the track and road race seasons.

 

Tergat, who is a five-time World Cross Country Champion, said the event has had a low acceptance rate, especially from athletes in Europe and America, yet it has been proven it serves as a stepping stone towards building an athlete's stamina and endurance.

 

"Cross country is a very important event. And as we head to Kampala, it is important for those athletes who avoid it because it is strenuous to note that it helps boost their preparedness in terms of endurance," he said.

 

Tergat is the brand ambassador for the IAAF during the World Cross Country Championships, which will be held on Sunday in Kampala.

 

Last month he toured the course in Kampala and it filled him with nostalgia knowing what fame and accomplishment he gained out of the event during his active days as an athlete.

 

"This is very fine," Tergat said after a tour of the course. "It is a good challenging course with so many obstacles that will give a great scene to the spectators and a great run to the athletes."

 

Tergat said the about 600 athletes who will line up for the championships will have an upper hand in the build-up to the track season, which starts in May as they seek to attain optimum performance ahead of the World Championships in London in August.

 

But he singled out Kenya to dominate the event which returns to the Africa continent for the fifth time. World Cross Country Championships were first held in Africa in 1975 in Rabat, before Johannesburg, Marrakech and Mombasa staged the game.

 

Now he has prodded the Kenya team, which departs to Kampala Thursday, to go and affirm their prowess in the event by winning in the Ugandan capital.

 

His sentiments were echoed by another cross country great, Kenyan John Ngugi.

 

After missing out on the top podium places at 2007 Mombasa World Cross Country, Ngugi said that it's now time for senior men and women to remedy that with victories at Kampala.

 

Tergat on the other hand, said Kenyan juniors have now matured to take on the world after they failed to secure victory at the 2015 World Cross Country Championships in Guiyang, China.

 

Ngugi made history when he became the first man to win five senior men's 12km titles at the World Cross Country Championships. He won the races back-to-back from 1986 to 1989 before returning to claim the title again in 1992.

 

Tergat would become the second man to win the race five times, equaling Ngugi's record with back-to-back victories in 1995 to 1999.

 

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