Athletics News

Seb Coe calls for more Euro nations to support the World Cross

Seb Coe calls for more Euro nations to support the World Cross

World Athletics president says “cross country, properly used in the modern training regimen, is an ageless and timeless concept” at pre-champs press conference in Belgrade

On the eve of the World Cross Country Championships in Belgrade, only five countries have proudly competed at every meeting since the modern event began in 1973. United States, Britain, Spain, France and Italy are part of an exclusive club of ever-presents but that number is set to fall to four nations this weekend due to Italy not sending any athletes to the Serbian capital.

Ironically, an Italian athlete, Paola Pigni, won the first two women’s world cross-country titles in 1973 and 1974. There will be no athletes in Belgrade from Finland either, who claimed the first-ever men’s crown in ’73 courtesy of Pekka Päivärinta.

Times have changed. An incredible 85% of the line-ups at the 1973 event in Belgium were from Europe with just 7.7% from Africa and no athletes at all from continents like Asia and South America. In contrast, last year’s championships in Australia, consisted of 34.8% Africans and only 11.3% Europeans, with 15.2% from North America, 23.5% from Oceania, 12.4% from Asia and 1.8% from South America.

“We’ve got work to do – there’s no doubt about that,” said Coe at Friday’s pre-event press conference in Belgrade’s Old Court Palace. “Africa consistently support these championships. But I’d like to see more of our European nations supporting and travelling to these championships. And that’s not just because they are our championships but it’s because I’ve always genuinely believed that cross country, properly used in the modern training regimen, is an ageless and timeless concept.”

Gaston Roelants leads in 1973 (Mark Shearman)

Coe was asked the question about the health of the event by letsrun.com, who, like AW, do their best to support the event with coverage. Coe added: “So, there’s work to do, but it’s an important property and it has an historic place in the athletics landscape.”

Italy and Finland aside, there are also no-shows this weekend from Germany, Belgium, Turkey, Austria, Croatia, Denmark, Greece, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Portugal and Switzerland among others. The solitary Dutch entrant, Sifan Hassan, has withdrawn, while Norway’s only competitor is three-time European champion Karoline Bjerkeli Grøvdal. This is despite the championships being held in Europe.

Fellow athletes having a focus on…

CLICK HERE to Read the Full Original Article at AW…