WRITTEN FOR THE IAAF
Familiar faces mark their return in Edinburgh – PREVIEW
Edinburgh, UK – ‘King’ Kenenisa Bekele and comeback queen, Hayley Yelling will be joined by Tirunesh Dibaba; the ‘baby-faced destroyer’ in Edinburgh’s Holyrood Park on Saturday (9) to take on the World’s best mud-larks in fierce battles for supremacy over a challenging course in the BUPA Great Edinburgh international cross-country.
Bekele will be determined to prove that his dominance over the distance elite has not lessened in his absence on the circuit since his superb double World Championship title-winning displays last summer, whilst Yelling will aspire to demonstrate her European cross-country Championship win last month - a year after her competitive retirement - was no fluke. Dibaba; unlike the two aforementioned familiar faces marking their returns, will be keen to capitalise on the scintillating form that saw her whisk to a World 15km Record in November, and will be eager to prevail over her African rival, Vivian Cheruiyot; the woman who took the World 5,000m crown last August that Dibaba would arguably have battled for had she not been on the injury sidelines.
Bekele; a former three-time winner of the event, will be making his fifth appearance in the Scottish capital and has spoken recently of his rejuvenation following the reunion with his exclusive training partner, his brother Tariku. With the younger Ethiopian back from a year-long injury spell, the 27-year-old Kenenisa has found additional motivation and love for his running but will be anxious about his comeback race.
Bekele’s countryman, the reigning World cross-country Champion; Gebre Gebremariam and Kenya’s Eliud Kipchoge; the Olympic 5,000m runner-up and 2005 victor in Edinburgh, will provide stiff competition over the nine-kilometre race. Gebremariam has taken his first three races on the IAAF cross-country calendar; proving a distinct advantage for the 25-year-old. Eight-times European cross-country Champion; Sergiy Lebid – third in last month’s continental Championships – will lead the European challenge.
A domestic-based 4km short-course race will also feature on the day’s activities; with European cross-country silver-medallist, Mo Farah moving down in distance to take on the 2008 and 2009 winner, Andy Baddeley.
A clash with Dibaba over the 6km route will be a formidable test for the newly-crowned European Champion. The 35-year-old will be hoping the home-crowd support can spur her onto another surprise performance but the maths teacher will have two big guns to deal with amongst another stellar field.
Dibaba; the Olympic Champion over five and 10,000m, is a four-time World cross-country Championship winner and prevailed in Edinburgh during the spring of 2005 in this event and later took the 2007 World title over the same course. The 24-year-old will be tough to beat following her recent World Record on the roads but if anyone can stop her in her tracks, it will be Vivian Cheruiyot.
The graceful Kenyan is a former World junior cross-country gold-medallist and following her fine exploits last summer, will undoubtedly be a hot contender. The younger Dibaba; Genzebe, is fast-improving on the senior international scene and will certainly be one to watch at the head of the pack, as well as Scottish duo, Steph Twell and Freya Murray – the former making her Scottish debut on home soil. An intriguing entrant is the British World 1,500m silver-medallist, Lisa Dobriskey, who returns from a recent honeymoon in Italy.
Nicola Bamford for the IAAF