The three medalists from the Bathurst World Cross Country Championships will still be the main contenders in the men’s senior race this weekend in Belgrade, Serbia.

In Australia last year, Uganda’s Jacob Kiplimo ran a calculated race to emerge victorious. His countryman, Joshua Cheptegei, had been the first to push the pace ahead, breaking away with a four-man pack that included Kenya’s Geoffrey Kamworor and Ethiopia’s Berihu Aregawi. The strong winds and tough hills had made it a challenging race, but Kiplimo had made it look quite easy as he strode away in the race’s final stages to win the title.

The previous world champions, Cheptegei (2019) and Kamworor (2017), who finished third and fourth in Bathurst, showed the competitive nature of the world cross-country event and how huge surprises could happen. However, given the trend in the last twenty years of the event, the winners have often come from Kenya, Ethiopia, or Uganda.

Jacob Kiplimo takex the WXC crown, photo by Steven Christo for World Athletics.

For fans from the three Eastern African countries, here is how they will probably be calculating their chances of their runners winning the individual gold medals.

For the Ugandan fans: When one tosses a coin, the probability of it landing on one side is 0.5 (50%). With the two top Ugandans in the team each having some good chances, their cumulative chances make it much higher for the individual title to go to either of them. It is like tossing a coin two times with the aim of seeing the heads in either of the tosses.

Ugandan fans should be double-checked for the gold medal going to Kiplimo or Cheptegei.

For the Ethiopian fans: If one tosses a coin two times and it all lands on the heads, the probability of it landing on the tails the next time the coin is tossed is higher. In the past five editions, the individual gold medals have all gone to Uganda and Kenya, so the gold is most likely to land on an Ethiopian runner this time.

Kenenisa Bekele, World Cross Country, photo by Getty Images for World Athletics

Despite Kenenisa Bekele being the most successful world cross-country runner, with 12 individual gold medals, Ethiopian fans have—for a while now—missed seeing their star win individual titles in the senior men’s race. This should be their time, and Aregawi will be their best bet.

For Kenyan fans: The probability of an outcome happening again depends on the number of times it has happened. To get a possible winner for Belgrade’s men’s senior race, one should consider all the past winners and where they came from. Kenya has 16 past individual gold medalists in this event, while Ethiopia is second with 12. This makes the probability of a Kenyan win here higher than the rest because of the number of times it has happened. Some Kenyans could surprise are Sebastian Sawe, the world half marathon champion, and Ishmael Kipkurui, the world U20 cross country champion.

I look forward to learning more about probabilities on Saturday, the 30th.

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