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IAAF World Cross Country: Benita Johnson shocks Africa, Kenenisa Bekele too strong for Kenyans

There was much talk before these championships

2004-03-21

Ethiopian Kenenisa Bekele has made the first step on his way to his third double triumph. In a superb solo run the 21 year-old won the 4 k event at the first day of the 32nd IAAF World Cross Country Championships in Brussels. Clocking 11:31 minutes he left behind his two countrymen Gebre-egziab Gebremariam and Maregu Zewdie. On Sunday he will now run the 12 k event as well. Two years ago Bekele became the first man ever to win both distances at the World Cross Country Championships. Now he wants to achieve this double for the third time in a row.

It was the 8 k womens race that ended with quite a sensation. There was much talk before these championships as to who of the long list of African top runners entered would finally snatch the gold. But in the end African runners were left in a state of shock, caused by an Australian: Benita Johnson. She ran away for the gold medal on the last of the four rounds. Clocking 27:17 minutes she left the two Ethiopians Ejegayehu Dibaba and Werknesh Kidane quite a way behind. The 27 year-old had been strong in recent World Cross Championships finishing sixth (2001), fourth (2002) and fifth (2003) at the short distance. Additionally she won the bronze medal at the IAAF World Half Marathon Championships. “I came here for a medal. And it does not really surprise me that in the end it was the gold. I am in the best shape of my life“, Johnson said. The mud, slight rain and wind provided perfect conditions in the eyes of the Australian who will run the 10,000 metres in the Olympics. “I absolutely respect all the African runners. But I knew it is possible to beat them if you train as hard as they do“, Johnson said. After the Olympics the Australian considers moving up to the marathon distance. “Paula has already shown that you can make it to the top“, Johnson said. Paula Radcliffe (Great Britain) had to cancel her start in Brussels due to a slight muscle problem.

In a high-class mens field Kenenisa Bekele took over the lead on the very first kilometre. He pushed the pace so hard that no-one was able to follow him in the final stages. Former Kenyan Saif Saaeed Shaheen (Qatar), who is the World Champion at 3000 m steeple, came in fifth while Kenya did not even won a single medal for the first time at this short event which was first run in 1998. “The Kenyans were not as strong as I had expected. For one more time I will try to double at these championships“, Kenenisa Bekele said.

Results:

Men, 4 k: 1. Kenenisa Bekele (ETH) 11:31, 2. Gebre-egziab Gebremariam (ETH) 11:36, 3. Maregu Zewdie (ETH) 11:42, 4. Abdullah Ahmad Hassan (QAT) 11:44, 5. Saif Saaeed Shaheen (QAT) 11:44, 6. Eliud Kibet Kirui (KEN) 11:45. Teams: 1. Ethiopia 17 points, 2. Qatar 39, 3. Kenya 52.

Women, 8 k: 1. Benita Johnson (AUS) 27:17, 2. Ejegayehu Dibaba (ETH) 27:29, 3. Werknesh Kidane (ETH) 27:34, 4. Alice Timbilili (KEN) 27:36, 5. Teyba Erkesso (ETH) 27:43, 6. Lornah Kiplagat (NED) 27:56. Teams: 1. Ethiopia 26, 2. Kenya 30, 3. Great Britain 74.


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