Tuesday 20 March 2018

McKiernan worried for Europeans' future

Kenya native Kaya Ali on his way to winning European gold for Turkey
Kenya native Kaya Ali on his way to winning European gold for Turkey

Cathal Dennehy

Former European Cross Country champion Catherina McKiernan believes urgent action is needed to protect the European Cross Country Championships after an influx of African-born runners dominated the senior men's race in Hyères, France yesterday.

Ali Kaya - a 21-year-old from Kenya formerly known as Stanley Kiprotich - dominated the senior men's race yesterday in the colours of Turkey, who he switched allegiance to in 2010.

Kaya, who still lives and trains in Kenya, beat former Ethiopian Alemayehu Bezabeh of Spain into second place, and the pair were followed home by three Moroccan-born Spaniards: Adel Mechaal, Ayad Lamdassen and Ilias Fifa. Finishing sixth was France's Florian Carvalho, who McKiernan believes was the deserving champion.

"In my eyes, the first European home was in sixth position," she said on the RTE broadcast. "I think it's a joke that the Kenyans, Ethiopians and Moroccans are allowed to compete in the European Championships.

"They're brought in or bought in, but they usually don't live in the country. They just come in for the races and it's unfair. The Europeans are a chance for Europeans to shine, and they're not being given the opportunity."

McKiernan, who won the European Cross Country title in 1994, believes the influx of East Africans will lead to a continued decline in the standard of European distance running.

"For youngsters in their teens watching who see a load of Kenyans and Ethiopians up the front, it gives them very little incentive to compete in the European Cross Country," she said. "They wonder what's the point."

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