WRITTEN FOR THE IAAF
Edinburgh, UK (Jan 9) – The athletics world suffered shockwaves in the freezing snow of Holyrood park in the Scottish capital at the BUPA Great Edinburgh international, as ‘King’ Kenenisa Bekele was dethroned as the World’s finest distance man by Kenya’s Joseph Ebuya in shocking fashion, whilst distance queen Tirunesh Dibaba ran majestically to assert her dominance ahead of the World cross-country Championships in March.
Despite being off the racing circuit since his superb double World Championship title-winning displays last summer, Bekele appeared confident of adding a fourth victory to his resume of appearances in Edinburgh.
The 27-year old double Olympic and World champion was a warm favourite to triumph alongside Olympic 5,000m runner-up and 2005 victor here, Eliud Kipchoge of Kenya, following the last-minute withdrawal of his countryman, reigning World cross-country Champion; Gebre Gebremariam.
As unpredictable as whether some of the athletes would get into the city following the recent chaotic weather, two Kenyans; Joseph Ebuya and Titus Mbishei caused a huge surprise by breaking the eleven-time World cross-country Champion after just thirteen minutes in the 9km race.
The duo tore up the rule book to steal the show and produced a master-class of dominating teamwork to destroy a plethora of better-known world-class competitors.
Bekele was left trailing in their wake as Ebuya; 4th in the World cross in 2008 and Mbishei; the World junior cross runner-up, worked together in inseparable fashion. With an unassailable 100m lead over their better-known compatriot, Kipchoge and another 10m ahead of Bekele, they glided over the undulating course in testing conditions to take the biggest scalp of all.
With Ebuya running the race of his life, the fearless African effortlessly flew to a two-second win over his countryman; whilst Kipchoge finished in third.
Ebuya; the 2006 World junior 10,000m runner-up said of his surprise victory; “Bekele is very strong, as is Kipchoge so I’m hoping with sustained training back in Kenya I can get through the (Kenyan) trial (for the World cross). Today was a very good day for me; I prayed to Jesus. I hope he will help me to do well there.”
Despite appearing not to suffer in the conditions, Bekele looked deflated and despondent; never being able to match or catch the brave front runners.
Explaining how his journey to visit the London 2012 site, followed by encountering poor training conditions in Edinburgh for the four days prior to the event, Bekele said; “The weather was a bit difficult and being here so long before the race, I didn’t train well and missed some training. My training has been good but missing training isn’t good. I didn’t expect the weather to be like this; it was very new and strange for me. It was just not my day.”
Questions will now arise as to whether the great man will continue with his scheduled indoor record-breaking appearance attempts this season and even go back on his word to contest the global Championships in Poland later this winter, to exact revenge and rescue his reputation.
Comeback queen of the 2009/10 winter season, Hayley Yelling replicated the brave front-running tactics that saw her capture the European cross-country title last month by taking a sterling international field by the scruff of the neck from the gun.
The 35-year-old British maths teacher – only three months back into training following her competitive year-long retirement, bravely threw down the gauntlet to double Olympic Champion and four-time World cross-country Champion, Tirunesh Dibaba of Ethiopia over the 6km route.
The duo were joined by Kenyan World 5,000m Champion, Vivian Cheruiyot, Dibaba’s countrywoman, Kalkidan Gezahegn and Britons Steph Twell and Jess Sparke during the first half of the race in the Scottish capital.
Looking fluid and strong in her first competition since setting a new World 15km road record in November, Dibaba bided her time by sheltering in the pack for much of the race before stretching out from the bell to break away in her usual dominant fashion.
Chased by Cheruiyot, her main rival for the win and Gezahegn, the 24-year-old ‘Baby-faced destroyer’- as she is affectionately known in athletics circles - maintained her relentless rate and winning advantage until the finish, showing no signs of struggling in her debut race in snow.
With Ethiopians celebrating Christmas on January 7, when she was preparing for the race in Edinburgh away from her family, Dibaba gave herself the perfect festive gift by succeeding so superbly with a ten-second advantage.
Dibaba, who prevailed here in the 2005 event and later took the 2007 World title over the same course, said of her most recent fine display; “Running in the snow was difficult and it took my body time to get used to it. I did not want to take any chances so I made my move later on. I am very happy to win and will now go home to celebrate then do some indoor races before the World cross-country.”
Cheruiyot ensured an Ethiopian one-two did not materialise by defending a late lunge from Gezahegn, the World junior 1500m silver-medallist.
Early-leader, Yelling impressively maintained her prominent position in the chasing pack and pipped three-time European junior cross-country Champion, Twell for fourth position on the line.
Men - short-course
Mo Farah appeared determined to put a disappointing silver medal from the European cross-country Championships in Dublin last month behind him, as he established a comfortable lead from the gun and powered away to a ten-metre advantage for two of the three laps. Farah and fellow British duo, Steve Vernon and Ricky Stevenson coped best with the slippery underfoot conditions; leaving reigning 4km Champion Andy Baddeley – the Olympic 1500m 9th-placer trailing.
Biding their time shortly adrift until the final circuit, fellow British runners Steve Vernon and Ricky Stevenson convincingly broke the 2008 European Champion’s leading efforts to then create an impressive extension of the leading gap on the penultimate hill, before 21-year-old Stevenson - a specialist miler and 8th in the European under23 race in Dublin – sped to a scintillating finishing kick to capture a three-second surprise victory over Vernon and Farah, with Baddeley vanquishing in seventh.
Nicola Bamford for the IAAF