With KenyaÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s 2011 gold and silver medallists Vivian Cheruiyot and Linet Masai opting to focus on the summer season, and EthiopiaÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s four-time winner and Olympic 10,000m champion Tirunesh Dibaba withdrawing through injury, the senior womenÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s race at theÃ‚Â IAAF World Cross Country ChampionshipsÃ‚Â in Bydgoszcz, Poland this Sunday (24) could be viewed as an open affair.
Despite the lack of big-name entrants, the championship will however continue to host a breeding ground for potential future stars of the global distance running community, and Hiwot Ayalew and Margaret Muriuki are top of the list of gold-medal contenders.
Aspiring to clinch her nationÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s first victory since 2008, Ayalew asserted her authority in winning the highly competitive Ethiopian trial last month and is a much-improved athlete compared to the runner who finished 11th in the last global contest in Punta Umbria two years ago.
After clocking an Ethiopian under-23 best of 9:09.61 in the 3000m Steeplechase in Oslo, the 23-year-old finished fifth in the Olympic final in London last summer. She then switched surfaces to take the first leg of the IAAF Cross Country Permit series back in November in Atapuerca, Spain, and looks set to threaten the podium in Poland.