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UK Athletics

Bekele and Dibaba take top honours

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Kenenisa Bekele



30 March 2008


For results from Sunday's races visit the IAAF Website



Beginning in driving rainstorms and ending under blue skies, the 36th IAAF World Cross Country Championships saw some truly world class athletes braving the mud and hills of Holyrood Park.


Thousands of athletics fans lined the course of one the most picturesque cross country settings on the planet to witness some breathtaking action.


True to expectations, Kenenisa Bekele and Tirunesh Dibaba both made impressive world class comebacks as they won the senior titles, in a day where all four seasons were demonstrated in the two hours of world class endurance racing.


Leading the team with perhaps the best GB&NI performance of the day was David Forrester whose marvellous 24th place in the junior men’s competition made him top of the European pile, and a massive improvement on last years debut placing of 89th.


Liz Yelling’s 15th place in the senior women’s race was another highlight in a strong day for the Norwich Union Great Britain team.

Junior Women (6km)


Ethiopia kicked of the day’s proceedings with an impressive win for Genzebe Dibaba – younger sister of Tirunesh Dibaba after an edgy race in the cold, wet and windy conditions.


In what could only be described as a slow start with the entire field bunched for the first third of the race, it soon burst into life when the Kenyan girls took to the front in group formation shortly before halfway. Despite a close battle between Dibaba and Kenya’s Irene Cheptai on the final descent from Haggis Knowe, Dibaba sprinted away, a true champion - emulating her older sisters achievements in the same event.


Of the British contingent Charlotte Purdue (Aldershot, Farnham & District) put in a plucky performance to return from injury and finish 16th, just ahead of an impressive World Cross Country debut by Laura Park (Ellenborough AC) in 17th.


Purdue said: “I am really pleased with that run and it feels good. I am coming back from injury so that run was great. The first lap was really slow and everyone was very bunched together and it was difficult to deal with.”


Park added: “I felt really strong, I couldn’t compete with the Africans but just tried to hang on. The support was fantastic on the course and I really enjoyed the experience.”


Emma Pallant (Aldershot, Farnham & District), who challenged in the lead group in the early stages, was third GB finisher in 27th.


Results: 1 Genzebe Dibaba ETH; 2 Irene Cheptai KEN; 3 Emembt Bacha (ETH); … 16 Purdue; 17 Park; 27 Pallant; 35 Jo Harvey (Exeter); 41 Emily Pidgeon (Gloucester AC); 43 Lily Partridge (Aldershot, Farnham & District).


Junior Men (8km)


The junior men’s race was more of a multi-national affair in the lead group with Kenya, Ethiopian, Eritrea and Uganda still in touch going into the final lap. With six athletes vying for the medals, the last ascent and descent into Haggis Knowe again made the difference with the medals decided on its steep inclines.

Ethiopia completed the junior title double as Ibrahim Jeilan sprinted away from his teammate Ayele Abshero to achieve an Ethiopian 1-2.

David Forrester (St Helens Sutton AC) was the toast of the Norwich Union Great Britain team – making good on his promise to push himself to the absolute limits in the race by trying as hard as he could to stick with the early pace. He finished a fantastic 24th – the second European finisher, picking off high quality scalps as he accelerated through the field in the final lap.


He said: “I felt really happy with it, but I have never been more tired in my life. I knew I had to hurt myself like I’d never hurt myself before and that’s what I did.”


Ross Murray (Gateshead) fell in the first ten metres of the race, but picked himself up to come a very credible 56th. He said: “I fell at the start and went down sliding forwards, head first like Jurgen Klinsmann, but that gave me an adrenaline rush that gave me a boost early on.”


Results: 1 Ibrahim Jeilan (ETH); 2 Ayele Abshero (ETH); 3 Lucas Rotich (KEN); … 24 Forrester; 55 Mitch Goose (City of Norwich); 56 Ross Murray; 67 Dewi Griffiths (Camarthen Harriers); 81 Simon Horsfield (East Cheshire); 93 Phillip Berntsen (Andover & District).


Senior Women (8km)


Tirunesh Dibaba shrugged off fitness doubts and came back from a mid race deficit of 20 metres to take the women’s title in a thrilling race.

Gelete Burka had looked the most likely recipient of the gold as she made a strong effort to escape her rivals two thirds of the way through the race, but perhaps putting too much effort in too soon, faded and allowed team mates Mestawet Tufa, and Dibaba to get back to her as well as young Kenyan Linet Masai.

Up the final approach to Haggis Knowe, Dibaba was third of the 4 runners, but in a show of speed reminiscent of her track 10,000m pace, she stretched away over the summit and sprinted into the finish to take the third Ethiopian title of the afternoon, with Tufa and Masai taking the remaining medals.


Liz Yelling (Bedford & County AC), made the early running amongst the British team, and thrilled the crowd by leading the field for the first third of the race. Her strong attempt to mix it with the African dominance rewarded her with a fantastic 15th place to give her oodles of confidence heading towards the Flora London Marathon.


She said: “I knew it would be tough this year, combining this race and the marathon. I felt really comfortable, so just wanted to get up there and give it a go. I know I’m in the best shape I have ever been in. The support was awesome, every step of the race someone was shouting out your name.”


Sister in law Hayley Yelling (Windsor Slough Eton & Hounslow), who alongside Liz had been part of the early lead, also had an impressive return from recent illness which saw her miss the English National and the Inter- Counties.

Results: 1 Tirunesh Dibaba (ETH); 2 Mestawet Tufa (ETH); 3 Linet Masai (KEN); … 15 L Yelling; 21 H Yelling; 38 Laura Kenney (Royal Sutton Coldfield AC); 42 Rachel Townend (Winchester & District); 45 Faye Fullerton (Havering Mayesbrook AC); 53 Jo Wilkinson (Bedford & County AC).

Senior Men (12km)


Kenenisa Bekele took the victory that was most expected, although his comeback from last year’s shock defeat was made all the more dramatic by the loss of his left shoe early on in the race.Forced to pause and replace his spike, the great Ethiopian then calmly proceeded to make his way back through the field to the lead pack, before settling once again into his rhythm.


Going into the final lap with the group whittled down to four athletes - Bekele, Zersenay Tadese, Leonard Komon and Joseph Ebuya – Bekele slowly stretched away to an unassailable lead which was never regained and enjoyed a victory lap as he picked up his 6th long course title. Leonard Komon, took a welcome silver for Kenya, whilst last year’s champion Tadese was forced to settle for bronze.


Tom Humphries (Cannock & Stafford) was top British finisher in 63rd, narrowly ahead of Michael Skinner (Blackheath & Bromley Harriers AC) in 66th and Frank Tickner (Wells City Harriers) in 73rd.


After the race Humphries said: “I’m a bit disappointed as I never really got into my running and I had some left at the end. I lost ground in the middle and lost pace and then counldn’t get it back.”


Tickner added: “I’m very pleased and to come third scorer for the team is great. I just needed that race as I was fit two weeks ago but it didn’t show in the trials. The amount of cheers for me was fantastic; a lot of guys from my club were here.”


Results: 1 Kenenisa Bekele (ETH); 2 Leonard Komon (KEN); 3 Zersenay Tadese (ERI); … 63 Humphries; 66 Skinner;  73 Tickner; 79 Andrew Lemoncello (Fife AC); 80 Andi Jones (Salford Harriers & AC); 83 Phil Wicks (Belgrave Harriers); 115 Andy Vernon (Aldershot, Farnham & District); 126 James Walsh (Leeds City AC); 137 John Beattie (Winchester & District AC).