Former Kenyans now trading for Turkey won the men’s team title at the SPAR European Cross Country Championships that were held on Sunday (10) in Samorin, Slovakia.
The Turkish team that comprised of four Kenyan-born runners, Kaan Kigen Özbilen, originally named Mike Kigen, with Aras Kaya, formally Amos Kibitek in seventh, Polat Kemboi Arıkan, previously known as Paul Kipkosgei Kemboi in ninth and Ali Kaya, originally called Stanley Kiprotich Mukche down in 21st.
Ozbilen won the individual gold for the fourth year in a row. Kemboi Arikan won it in2014, Ali Kaya took honors at the 2015 event while Aras Kaya was the 2016 winner.
Ozbilen cut the tape in 29:45 with Soains Adel Mechaal coming second nine seconds later and Great Britain’s Andrew Butchart closing the podium three in 30:00.
The only Turkish-born athlete in the team, Alper Demir, finished in 55th.
Kenyan-born athletes competing for Turkey has been a controversial subject in recent years. Earlier this year, the IAAF froze the transfer of athletes’ international allegiance to halt the exodus of runners from African countries.
Post-race, the victors held the Turkish flag aloft. Though, it was not correctly aligned. It took Demir, the Turkish-born runner on the Turkish team, to correct the mix-up.
An Irish men’s team comprised of Sean Tobin, Hugh Armstrong, Kevin Maunsell, Paul Pollock, Kevin Dooney and John Travers finished a commendable fifth.
Turkey took the overall trophy with 17 points and were followed by Spain with 20 and Great Britain finishing in third place with 35 points.