Bekele unstoppable

Ethiopian Kenenisa Bekele (No. 353) leads the pack in the men's short course race. Bekele completed a double, retaining the gold in both the short and long courses.-Pic. AP Ethiopian Kenenisa Bekele (No. 353) leads the pack in the men's short course race. Bekele completed a double, retaining the gold in both the short and long courses.

KENYA'S dominance in the IAAF World cross country championships suffered a setback for the second consecutive year, at the 31st edition held recently in Lausanne.

KENYA'S dominance in the IAAF World cross country championships suffered a setback for the second consecutive year, at the 31st edition held recently in Lausanne. When Ethiopia's Kenenisa Bekele made his successful defence of both the men's long and short course titles, it certainly heralded toil and trouble for the sport's previously dominant nation.

Like in Dublin last year, Bekele, yet to turn 21, was simply breathtaking as he completed a double at the Swiss Equestrian Centre. Kenya had the consolation of stretching its monopoly over the team title in both the races.

Bekele had shown his prodigious talent by coming second in the senior 4km race and winning the junior title in 2001, before taking both the senior titles in Dublin's Leopardstown last year. In the run-up to the championships, Bekele's preparations had been hampered by a bout of typhoid. Yet, as he faced his Kenyan rivals among others, the young Ethiopian was sharp enough to keep up with the other competitors through the opening kilometre by staying close — obviously advised by his coach Jos Hermans to conserve his energy — and always alert to whatever tactics the Kenyans might essay.

Little over 500m from home Bekele was still flanked by the Kenyans and he drifted back into the third spot shortly before delivering a searing finish from 250m out. Bekele covered the 4030m circuit in 11 minutes and 01seconds and in the end was a good three seconds ahead of Kenya's John Kibowen. Richard Limo, also of Kenya, picked up the bronze in 11:06. Kenya extended its reign over the team title with Kibowen and Limo being followed across the finishing line by Michael Kipyego and Thomas Kiplitany. Ethiopia was second, while Morocco finished third.

The Ethiopian was back on trail the next day, finishing the testing 12,355-metre course in 34 min and 56 secs, 13 seconds clear of Kenya's Patrick Ivuti with Gebre-Egzibher Gebremariam taking the bronze for Ethiopia in 36:17. Thus, for the fourth time in as many editions, Kenya had only one medallist on the podium. Not since the fifth of Paul Tergat's victories in 1999 have the Kenyans had a long course champion.

Abraham Cherono set a fierce pace, 2:41 for the opening kilometre, and after two of the six laps (3830m) had been completed in 10:52, only six contenders remained in the lead group, four of them Kenyans. Bekele again made no attempt to crack his rivals until the start of the final 1705m lap but once he surged hard at the artificial hill leading to the finish, there was no stopping the Ethiopian. Ivuti, runner-up to Tergat in 1999 and a fourth place finisher in the 2000 Olympic 10,000m final, gave a tough fight but could not match the brilliant Bekele. Kenya salvaged some pride taking the team title. Ethiopia took silver and Morocco bagged the bronze.

The Kenyans had something to cheer as Eliud Kipchoge, with a blistering sprint finish, won the junior 7900m title ahead of Uganda's Boniface Kiprop and team-mate Solomon Bushendich. Kenya also took the team gold followed by Ethiopia and Uganda.

Werknesh Kidane made it a memorable outing for Ethiopia by taking the senior women's long course 8km title outsprinting Deena Drossin of the United States close to the finish. Kidane's team-mate Merima Denboba finished third. Not so surprisingly, Ethiopia also won the team title from Kenya and the United States.

However, in the short course (4km) race, Kidane was outwitted by Kenya's Edith Masai who successfully defended her title. Masai, 35, a prison officer, broke away in the straight to finish in 12:43. Kidane took the silver in 12:44, while Jane Gakukyi won the bronze. The Kenyans and the Ethiopians filled eight of the top 10 placings and Kenya won the team title from Ethiopia and Morocco.

In the junior section, it was Ethiopian Tirunesh Dibaba who reigned supreme with a devastating kick in the last 200m against her immediate Kenyan rival, Peninah Chepchumba. Dibaba won the 6215m race in 20:21, one second clear of Chepchumba, who was followed by another Ethiopian, Gelete Burika (20:28). Ethiopia with as many as four top spots within the first six placings also took the team gold ahead of Kenya and Morocco.

The results:

Men: Long course: 1. Kenenisa Bekele (Eth), 35:56, 2. Patrick Ivuti (Ken), 36:09, 3. Gebre-Egziabher Gebremariam (Eth), 36:17. Team: 1. Kenya (Patrick Ivuti (2), Richard Limo (4), Paul Koech (5), John Cheruiyot Korir (6), Abraham Cherono, Sammy Kipketer), 17 points, 2. Ethiopia (Kenenisa Bekele (1), Gebre-Egziabher Gebremariam (3), Sileshi Sihine (7), Ketema Nigusse (13), Dejene Berhanu, Yibeltal Admassu), 23 pts, 3. Morocco (Hicham Chatt (8), Khalid El Amri (10), Abderrahim Goumri (15), Jaouad Gharib (23), Said Mohamed El Wardi, Ahmed El Hamzoui), 51 pts.

Short course: 1. Kenenisa Bekele (Eth), 11:01, 2. John Kibowen (Ken), 11:04, 3. Benjamin Limo (Ken), 11:06. Team: 1. Kenya (John Kibowen (2), Benjamin Limo (3), Michael Kipyego (4), Thomas Kiplitany (5), David Kilel, Evans Kipchumba), 14 points, 2. Ethiopia (Kenenisa Bekele (1), Meba Tadesse (7), Tessema Absher (12), Abiyote Ehdale (13), Ketema Nigusse, Dehe Woyesha), 31 pts, 3. Morocco (Khalid El Amri (6), Abderrahim Goumri (10), Ahmed Baday (15), Abdelkader Hachlaf (16), 44 pts.

Juniors: Short course: 1. Eliud Kipchoge (Ken), 22:47, 2. Boniface Kiprop (Uga), 22:49, 3. Solomon Bushendich (Ken), 22:51. Team: 1. Kenya (Eliud Kipchoge (1), Solomon Bushendich (3), Augustine Choge (4), Moses Mosop (7), Barnaba Kosgei, Kipkorir Chepkwony), 15 points, 2. Ethiopia (Girma Assefa (5), Getachew Dinku (6), Tessema Absher (8), Solomon Molla (9), Dehe Woyesha, Tesfaye Mengistu), 28 pts, 3. Uganda (Boniface Kiprop (2), James Kibet (13), Moses Kipsiro (18), Issac Kiprop (27), Martin Kiplimo) 48 pts.

Women: Long course: 1. Werknesh Kidane (Eth), 25:53, 2. Deena Drossin (U.S.), 26:02, 3. Merima Denboba (Eth), 26:28. Team: 1. Ethiopia (Werknesh Kidane (1), Merima Denboba (3), Eyerusalem Kuma (4), Tereza Yohannes (10), Asha Gigi, Bizunesh Deba) 18 pts, 2. Kenya (Magdaline Chemjor (5), Pamela Chepchumba (6), Elizabeth Rumokol (7), Caroline Cheptanui (9), Jepkorir Aiyabei, Alice Timbilili) 27 pts, 3. United States (Deena Drossin (2), Colleen de Reuck (8), Katie McGregor (16), Elva Dryer (19), Milena Glusac, Sara Wells), 38 pts.

Short course: 1. Edith Masai (Ken), 12:43, 2. Werknesh Kidane (Eth), 12:44, 3. Jane Gakunyi (Ken), 12:46. Team: 1. Kenya (Edith Masai (1), Jane Gakunyi (3), Isabella Ochichi (4), Prisca Jepleting (11), Viola Kibiwot), 18 points, 2. Ethiopia (Werknesh Kidane (2), Merima Denboba (6), Tirunesh Dibaba (7), Ejagayehu Dibaba (9), Eyerusalem Kuma, Bezunesh Bekele), 24 pts, 3. Morocco (Asmae Leghzaoui (12), Zhor El Kamch (14), Bouchra Chaabi (18), Zahra Ouaziz (22), Ouafae Frikech, Seloua Ouaziz) 61 pts.

Juniors: Short course: 1. Tirunesh Dibaba (Eth) 20:21, 2. Peninah Chepchumba (Ken), 20:22, 3. Gelete Burika (Eth), 20:28. Team: 1. Ethiopia (Tirunesh Dibaba (1), Gelete Burika (3), Meselech Melkamu (4), Sentayehu Ejigu (6), Aziza Aliyu, Belaynesh Fikadu) 14 points, 2. Kenya (Peninah Chepchumba (2), Emily Chebet (5), Gladys Chemweno (7), Chemutai Rionotukei (9), Jepchumba Koech, Sharon Kipsang), 22 pts, 3. Morocco (Mariem Alaoui Selsouli (13), Siham Hilali (19), Najat El Fiddi (22), Loubna Jao (66), Laila Klilech, Fatna Chtoina), 78 pts.