Friday, 7 January 2011

Injection of Team Spirit


A look ahead to this weekend’s action in Edinburgh - Great Edinburgh Cross, Jan 8, 2011 - PREVIEW

n the UK international opener for the new year, the Scottish capital hosts a revitalised event aimed at creating mouth-watering head-to-heads while providing genuine opportunities away from the usual dominant African force of entrants, writes Nicola Bamford.

The new format not only sees the event’s title slightly changed but the introduction and twist of three tantalising races – a short 4.2km course for a strong men’s international field, a high-calibre 5.7km event for some of the globe’s finest female athletes and a new International Team Challenge over 8km for men, which will pit Great Britain & Northern Ireland’s best senior and under-23 men against the United States and European Select’s finest.

Once again, a plethora of stars will boost the reputation of the competition, with Britain’s Mo Farah, Kenya’s Eliud Kipchoge, Vivian Cheruiyot and Linet Masai, Europe’s Sergiy Lebid and USA’s Galen Rupp taking on the famous undulating Arthur’s Seat course.

Entry into the picturesque Holyrood Park is free for spectators and a giant LED television will screen the international races following several Scottish Inter-District championship events, the Bupa Junior Winter Run and the Bupa Great Winter Run warm-up races earlier in the day.

On a specially adapted, albeit demanding course, the men’s short race is highlighted by three world-class Kenyans. Reigning Olympic champions Asbel Kiprop (1500m) and Brimin Kipruto (3000m steeplechase) are shooting for their first victories in Edinburgh along with former world 5000m champion Eliud Kipchoge.

European 1500m champion Arturo Casado of Spain will lead the continental challenge, while defending champion Ricky Stevenson should benefit from stronger opposition this time around.

The victor in 2005 and 2006, Morpeth’s Nick McCormick completes the field. The 29-year-old has not raced since registering the fifth fastest time at the national relays in early November but should fare well.

Reigning world champions Vivian Cheruiyot and Linet Masai will lead an equally strong Kenyan challenge for top honours in the women’s long race.

Recently crowned European champion Jessica Augusto of Portugal will need her strongest form again to compete with her African rivals, before switching her attention to the roads and making her 26.2-mile debut in the Virgin London Marathon in April.

World bronze medallist and Commonwealth steeplechase champion Milcah Chemos is another strong Kenyan, and she will be chased by Scottish duo Steph Twell and Freya Murray.

Following his amazing 2010 track campaign, Mo Farah will make his eagerly awaited cross-country season debut by leading Team GB’s hopes of glory in this fresh new international team format. The European 5000m and 10,000m champion will be making his long-course debut here and will look to make up for his disappointment of 12 months ago here when he finished third.

Nine-time European champion Lebid captains an extremely strong European team, which includes Ayad Lamdasssm and Youssef El Kalai, the silver and bronze medallists in Albufeira, plus fourth and fifth finishers, Mourad Amdouni and Abdellatif Meftah, who led France to its first overall team title since 2006.

In the GB team, Frank Tickner has replaced Chris Thompson, who has withdrawn as a precaution with a slight hip injury. Also representing Britain will be Tom Humphries, Ryan McLeod, Phil Nicholls, Andy Vernon, Scott Overall, John Beattie and Lee Merrien.

An under-23 GB squad also competes and is made up of Ryan Saunders, John McDonnell, Mitch Goose, Ashley Harrell, Derek Hawkins, Johnny Hay, Robbie Farnham-Rose, Ben Connor and Andy Combs.

Each nation will field nine athletes and the first six athletes to complete the course will receive a score based on their position. The team with the lowest overall score will win.

» BBC1 will cover the event from 1-2.30pm.

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