Report07 Jan 2012

Kiprop triumphs in race of champions, Bekele a distant 11th - Edinburgh XC report


Asbel Kiprop takes the showcase 3Km in Edinburgh (© Mark Shearman)

Asbel Kiprop, the reigning Olympic 1500m champion, produced a surprise at the Bupa Great Edinburgh Cross Country on Saturday (7) after running away from the long distance stars in the 3Km race.

On the hilly and muddy terrain in Holyrood Park the 22 year-old Kenyan won his first senior international Cross Country contest at this IAAF Cross Country Permit race. Also taking wins in cool, partly windy and sunny conditions were reigning European Cross Country champion Fionnuala Britton of Ireland who won the women’s 6Km race with a 20 second advantage while Spain’s Ayad Lamdassem took the men’s 8Km event. The latter two races were designed as a team event, in which Great Britain and Northern Ireland, Europe and the USA competed. Britain won the overall team competition with 144 points from the USA (196) and Europe (215). Junior results were added to this team competition as well.

Men’s 3Km: Kiprop makes strong pre-Olympic statement

It was Kenyan Eliud Kipchoge, who had won the 4.2Km event in Edinburgh a year ago, who went to the front right after the start. With the Olympic Steeplechase champion Brimin Kipruto next to him in the very early stages and Ethiopian Kenenisa Bekele taking fifth place the race seemed to develop as expected.

But then it turned out to become a surprise package. Kipchoge did not keep the pace high enough and there was no support for him. It became obvious that Bekele was not at his best. While the double Olympic champion dropped back down the field and was almost out of contention already at half way it was Britain’s youngster Ross Millington who took the lead. Together with Kiprop he opened a gap of a couple of metres. Just before they entered the third and final lap the Olympic champion made his move and soon opened a gap of around eight metres.

There was no stopping Kiprop in the third kilometre, while Kenenisa Bekele was back in 12th position. Behind the Kenyan Kipchoge and Spain’s Juan Carlos Higuero fought for second place, but there was another just before the finish. While Kiprop crossed the line in 9:20 and celebrated his best Cross Country race as a senior, Britain’s Jonny Hay snatched second place with a great finish (9:25). Kipchoge won the battle for third against Higuero – both thinking they were fighting for second until the last metres of the race. The two were given the same time of 9:26. While Ricky Stevenson (Great Britain) was fifth in 9:30, Bekele finished eleventh in 9:42. Behind him was another Olympic champion, Kipruto, who had disappointed and finished 12th with 9:42 as well.

“When I came into the race I knew I was not in my best form. So it was 50:50 regarding how the race would go for me. Of course I am not happy – but what can I do,” Bekele said. “But I remain optimistic regarding the Olympics in London.”

In contrast to Bekele it was the perfect start of the Olympic year for Kiprop.

“I was quite surprised that I beat the likes of Bekele, Kipchoge and Kipruto. I always expected Kenenisa to come to the front but I never saw him during the race,” said Kiprop, who had won the gold medal in the junior race at the World Cross Country Championships in Kenya back in 2007. But since then he only ran a couple of Cross Country races, most of them in Kenya. “Internationally I only competed twice in the cross. Last year I came second in Edinburgh and then went on to become World champion at the 1500 m. Now I have won in Edinburgh, so this is a very good sign for the London Olympics.”

Men’s 8Km: Lamdassem prevails with sensational sprint

It was Belgium’s new European Cross Country champion Atelaw Bekele who took an early lead with Joseph Sweeney the only one to follow. But after 3Km the Irishman dropped back while Jon Grey (USA), Javier Guerra and Ayad Lamdassem (both Spain) came from behind to catch up with Bekele, who has no relationship with Kenenisa. The 23-year-old American was surprisingly the one who set the pace for most of the time in the second half of the race. But in the final lap it was first Guerra and then him, who could not match Bekele’s and dropped back. But the Belgium could not get rid of Lamdassem. The 30-year-old, who had won silver medals at the 2010 and 2011 European Cross Country Championships, waited until 250 metres remained and then unleashed his kick. Bekele was immediately beaten and Lamdassem finished in 25:44. Bobby Mack (USA) caught Bekele coming from well behind with a great finish to take second in 25:47; the European champion was given the same time. Grey finished fourth (25:52) with Frank Tickner (Great Britain/25:55) fifth.

Europe won the men’s team event with 44 points from Great Britain (58) and the USA (76).

“I know that Bekele is very strong in Cross Country, so I had to be patient,” Lamdassem said. “I waited very long until I started my attack.” Lamdassem is now preparing for his Marathon debut set for March at Japan’s Lake Biwa race. “I hope to run around 2:09 in Otsu and would then also run the Marathon at the Olympic Games.”

Women’s 6Km: Britton in convincing style

Britton ended her 2011 campaign with the European Cross Country title and now the 27-year-old from Wicklow (Ireland) opened the Olympic year collecting her Edinburgh victory in convincing style. From the start she was in the lead group, together with Britain’s Gemma Steel, Freya Murray and Stephanie Twell.

When the first group approached half way Britton increased the pace and opened a gap. It was only Steel who gradually was able to get back on the heels of the European champion. But while Steel had to fight hard to keep up Britton seemed to easily run through the mud of Holyrood Park. One always had the impressions that Ireland’s new long distance running hope could shift to another gear if necessary. Shortly before the final lap she did just that and Steel was beaten.

“I was not quite sure about my form before the race. But now I am happy that I was able to run so strong,” said Britton, who finished in 21:32 with a 20 second advantage over Steel. Elle Baker (Great Britain/22:08) took third while Neely Spence (USA/22:11) was fourth.

Great Britain won the team challenge with 33 points from Europe (61) and the USA (89). Due to the team event this race only had runners from the participating squads so the field, as with the men’s 8Km, didn’t include any Africans.

“It is a bit sad that there are no World Cross Country Championships this year. I would have liked to compete in these,” said Britton, who will now head to Cross Country events in Seville and Antrim. She isn’t planning an indoor season, concentrating instead on preparation for the 5000 and 10,000m.

Jörg Wenig for the IAAF

Leading Results:


International 3Km:

1. A Kiprop (Kenya) 9:20

2. J Hay (GB) 9:25

3. E Kipchoge (Kenya) 9:26

4. J-C Hihuero (Spain) 9:26

5. R Stevenson (GB) 9:30

6. R Millington (GB) 9:34

7. C Hawkins (GB) 9:39

8. A Casado (Spain) 9:40

9. S Vernon (GB) 9:41

10. A Wiles (GB) 9:42

11. K Bekele (Ethiopia) 9:42

12. B Kipruto (Kenya)

International Team Match

1. Great Britain & Northern Ireland 144 points, 2. United States 196 points, 3. Europe Select 215


Senior (8km)

1. A Lamdassem (EUR) 25:44

2. B Mack (US) 25:47

3. A Bekele (EUR) 25:47

4. J Grey (US) 22:52

5. F Tickner (GB) 25:55

6. J Guerra (EUR) 26:00

7. S Vernon (GB) 26:00                                  

8. T Humphries (GB) 26:07

9. A Meftah (EUR) 26:10

10. J Taylor (GB) 26:13

Junior (6km)

1. K Erassa (US) 19:56

2. K Clements (GB) 19:57

3. M Shaw (GB) 19:59

4. E Owens (US) 20:09

5. A Gardner (US) 20:11

6., S Tobin (IRL/Ind) 20:15


Senior (6km)

1. F Britton (EUR) 21:32

2. G Steel (GB) 21:52

3. E Baker (GB) 22:08

4. N Spence (US) 22:11

5. F Murray (GB) 22:22:17

6. H Dean (GB) 22:29

7. R Barca (EUR) 22:32

8. H Walker (GB) 22:33

9. S Twell (GB) 22:37

10. L Thweatt ((US)

Junior (4km)

1. E Gorfecka (GB) 14:48

2. A Cuffe (US) 15:09

3. M Seidel (US) 15:16

4. K Knight (US) 1`5:23

5. I Lake (GB) 15:27

6. J Jackson (US) 15:29

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