The countdown is on to the World Athletics Cross Country Championships Bathurst 2021.

Australia’s elite cross country runners will take on the world’s best athletes when they contend for the 44th World Athletics Cross Country Championships in Bathurst, New South Wales, on 20 March 2021.

With just 300 days until the world-class athletics event, Minister for Jobs, Investment, Tourism and Western Sydney Stuart Ayres said today’s milestone would ramp up preparations for competitors, supporters, organisers and the Bathurst community.

“This will be the first World Athletics event to be held in Australia for 25 years, so it will be fantastic to welcome 550 elite runners from more than 60 countries to the famed Bathurst racetrack to compete,” Minister Ayres said.

“The NSW Government is very proud to support this World Championship event as it highlights our commitment to support regional NSW, and our strategy to secure 10 World Cups in 10 years for the state.

“This event will also include participation events for amateurs of all ages and abilities, meaning even more people will be visiting and staying in Bathurst, supporting local businesses and helping the local tourism economy bounce back.”

African nations have dominated the World Athletics Cross Country Championships in recent years with Ethiopia and Kenya having won every women’s team medal since 1995. Only once in 40 years has the men’s team medal gone to anyone else.

Legendary Australian runner Rob de Castella is Head of Delegation for the Australian Team and said the Aussies have plenty of motivation to perform.

“Having only ever had one winner of the event, when Benita Willis blitzed the world back in 2004, the Australian team will need to overcome history, but I know they are excited to race in front of a large, parochial home crowd who will spur them on. The team will also be inspired to etch their names into the sporting folklore of Bathurst’s Mount Panorama alongside other Australian sporting greats.”

The World Championship event weekend includes mass participation races, highlighted by a golden ticket event where amateur athletes will race for the chance to compete against the World’s best in the Senior World Championship event. The event will also include the Australian cross country club challenge, an event that will pit athletics clubs from across the country against one another, racing for bragging rights as the best cross country club in the nation.

Brenda LaPorte, Chair of the Local Organising Committee, said organisers are working hard to fulfill the vision for the event with an outstanding athletic experience, a true celebration of the sport and Australian culture.

“The 2019 Championships in Denmark certainly raised the bar and in 2021 we’re looking to take the World Athletics Cross Country Championships to an even higher level,” said LaPorte.

“We’re planning that everyone who visits Bathurst for the Championships leaves with the memory of a truly unique, and warmly welcome, regional Australian experience.

“I’m also pleased to say that we will host an invitational para cross country race, which is the first time that para cross country has featured in a World Athletics Cross Country Championships.”

A technical and challenging championship course awaits participants with constant changes in terrain, elevation and direction breaking up a runner’s rhythm. The course starts with a challenging uphill start and incorporates unique features such as the billabong and a run through a vineyard and its stunning autumn foliage. The Senior World Championship races will comprise five loops of the 2km course.

Sebastian Coe, President of World Athletics, will be attending the event.

“I want to express my thanks to Athletics Australia, the NSW Government through Destination NSW, and the team at World Athletics for their efforts in producing what will be an extraordinary championship,” Coe said.

“This has been an exceptionally challenging year for the community and for sport globally, so I’m very excited about the prospect of a return to world championship competition next year. Bathurst promises to be a great celebration of sport, from elite to community level. I really love cross country. These championships will not only feature the best distance runners of their generation, but possibly of all time. I encourage anyone with young people in their family to attend as this is a truly inspiring event.”

Spectators at the event can expect action-packed racing on a looped course with easy access to all areas on course, along with a range of off-track entertainment and activities to keep the whole family engaged. For fans unable to get to Bathurst, the World Athletics Cross Country Championships Bathurst 2021 will feature a live international television broadcast and live stream with more than 60 countries expected to broadcast the event.