Prize fund increased
The IAAF has announced a new structure of prize money for the World Cross Country Championships in Dublin next March 24th/25th, adding greater incentive for team honours. In a new departure from previous years, the top six team placings will now be rewarded financially.
The overall prize money for the senior races has also been increased to $560,000, with $30,000 going to the individual winners of the men's and women's long and short course races. The prize money extends into the top six placings.
First place in the team races will get $20,000 (to be split among the four scorers). For the Irish teams, the pursuit of a team prize is sure to add further impetus for a strong performance, especially after the result at the European Championships in Malmo, Sweden earlier this month.
The senior men took bronze medals on that occasion, beating a number of the traditionally strong cross country nations such as Portugal and Britain. A top six placing at Leopardstown in March will probably demand an even more exceptional performance, especially with presence of the near-dominant African nations.
It was Limerick in 1979 - the day John Treacy struck individual gold - when the Irish men last finished among the top three teams, taking the silver medals behind Britain. But with Mark Carroll confirming his interest in the event, along with the consistent form of Seamus Power and Peter Matthews, finishing in the top six would not be outside the realms of possibility.
For the senior women, the challenge for a top team prize will be far greater, especially with Sonia O'Sullivan leading the way. Last March in Villamoura, the women were pipped for bronze medals in the long course race (where the USA edged them out by three points - 98 to 101) although O'Sullivan's seventh place finish in that race was viewed as disappointing. Anne Keenan-Buckley also had an uncharacteristic lapse over the last lap.
In Turin in 1997, the senior women took bronze medals, again with O'Sullivan to the fore. The chances of repeating that feat in Leopardstown will depend on a number of factors, including what event O'Sullivan will enter and whether or not Catherina McKiernan will have returned to competitive running. In Malmo, the team were led home by Keenan-Buckley to finish in joint sixth, just six points away from third.
"This added incentive will undoubtedly add to the competitiveness at Leopardstown," says Chris Wall, AAI international secretary and event director. "I think the Irish public can expect an even greater exhibition of cross country running at individual and team level."
The event schedule has been brought forward on the Saturday, March 24th, in order to avoid a clash with the Ireland/England rugby match at Lansdowne Road. Unlike recent years, there will also to be an admission charge for the public.
World Cross Country Prize Fund: Individual: 1 $30,000, 2 $15,000, 3 $10,000, 4 4 $7,000, 5 $5,000, 6 $3,000; Team (4): 1 $20,000, 2 $16,000, 3 $12,000, 4 $10,000, 5 $8,000, 6, $4,000.