By Javier Silas Omagor
Uganda struggled in the mixed relay (4x2000m) category at the World Cross Country Championships 2023 as neighbours Kenya and Ethiopia dominated the contest from start to finish.
Despite a decent start by Ronald Musagala, who anchored Uganda to a fifth-place finish in the last edition in Aarhus, Denmark in 2019, Uganda, a pre-race favourite, lost momentum a few meters into the race.
Musagala, the 1,500m national record holder, was fielded alongside Knight Aciru, Abu Salim Mayanja and Linda Chebet.
Meanwhile, Kenya’s quartet stuck to their gameplan and returned home victorious after overpowering threats from the usual suspect, Ethiopia and the host Australia.
Brilliant teamwork anchored by supremely gifted Brenda Chebet so the Kenyans come home at 23:14 a time good enough for their first gold medal at the 44th edition of World Cross Country Championships. Chebet was assisted by Emmanuel Wanyonyi, Miriam Cherop and the impressive Kyumbe Munguti.
To win silver, the pre-race favorite Ethiopia relied on the pacey quartet of Adehena Kasaye, Hawi Abera, Getnet Wale and Birke Haylom whose effort fetched a clock of 23:21.
After an awesome effort, the bronze deservedly belonged to the home side, Australia, who remarkably stepped up on the plate to smash competition from South Africa, USA, Morocco, Gabon and Canada.
Australian had the ever-reliable Jessica Hull to thank for her tidy pacey and tactical run that inspired the likes of Oliver Hoare, Steward Mcsweyn and the stylish runner in Abbey Caldwell, returning home at 23:26.
The mixed relay was considered Australia’s biggest medal hope on home soil and their quartet featured Olympic and world finalists.
Hoare reached the Olympic final in Tokyo and last year took the men’s 1500m title at the Commonwealth Games, while Caldwell also achieved medal success in Birmingham, finishing third in the women’s 1500m.
Hull is an Olympic and world 1500m finalist while McSweny finished in seventh-place in the last Olympics edition.
A total of 15 teams were entered for the mixed relay in Bathurst, where two women and two men each racing a loop of around 2km – the first and last laps being slightly longer than the others – for each squad.
Racing in man-woman-man-woman format, athletes wore a wristband that they transfered to their teammates in the takeover zone.
The frustrated Team Uganda will now hope for success elsewhere as the other subsequent categories get underway.
Mixed relay was followed by the junior women’s (6km) and men’s (8km) races.
Thereafter, the senior women’s and men’s races (10km) will compete and finally the medal awarding ceremonies will sum up the one-day global event.