Series03 Jun 2021

Japan's seven wonders: World Cross Country Championships Fukuoka 2006


World Cross Country Championships Fukuoka 2006 (© Getty Images)


In the countdown to the Tokyo Olympics, we have been putting the spotlight on other major international athletics events to have been staged in Japan. 

The next throwback is the 2006 World Cross Country Championships in Fukuoka. 

Setting the scene 

The 34th edition of the World Cross Country Championships was held in Umi-no-nakamichi Seaside Park in Fukuoka – the same course that stages the annual Fukuoka International Cross Country meeting. It was the first time the championships had been staged in Asia. The two-day event was held on 1-2 April – the latest date the World Cross Country Championships had ever been held. 

It was also the final time the short course (4km) event would be staged at a World Cross. The event was first introduced at the 1998 edition but from 2007 onwards the championships would revert back to a one-day only event with long course races for senior men and women and U20 men and women. 

Broken records 

In a stunning demonstration of his endurance quality, Kenenisa Bekele completed an unprecedented fifth successive World Cross Country long and short course double. The Ethiopian distance running great also managed to match the record of Paul Tergat, who claimed five successive long course victories (1995-99). 

In the women’s long course race, Ethiopia extended their winning streak in the team event to five straight titles. No nation had previously achieved more three straight team golds in the women’s blue riband event of the championships. 

Headline acts 

Bekele was the undoubted star act, but he was made to work hard for his gold medals. His three-second win from teammate Sileshi Sihine was the narrowest victory margin of his five long course titles to that point in his career. His short course march to gold also survived a scare. Passing the grandstand at the end of two laps, he stumbled and almost fell – only keeping upright by placing a hand on the back of Kenyan Edwin Soi. Bekele survived and went on to earn a narrow one-second victory from Soi’s compatriot Isaac Songok.  

In the post-event press conference, Bekele said: “I am leaning towards not competing at the World Cross anymore. I cannot achieve anything new.” 

Bekele did, however, return for the 2007 World Cross in Mombasa, Kenya – a race he failed to complete. The following year in Edinburgh, Bekele claimed a record-breaking sixth men’s world cross long course title. 

Tirunesh Dibaba – the greatest female endurance runner of her generation – became the seventh woman in history to retain the long course title with a typically assured display. For 7.7km of the 8km race, the Ethiopian superstar was content to trail long-time leader Lornah Kiplagat of the Netherlands. However, on the final hill Dibaba made her winning strike and passed Kiplagat on the down slope on her way to winning the gold medal.  

Home stars  

Japan harvested a pair of bronze medals in the women’s long course and U20 races. Their star performer was Kayoko Fukushi, who, roared on by the passionate home fans, produced an inspired run to place sixth individually in the women’s 8km long course race to help her country to the medal podium. It was Japan’s first senior team medal since winning silver at the 1993 event. Fukushi would go on to enjoy a distinguished marathon career, later winning 2013 world bronze over the 42.2km distance. 

The host nation’s U20 women also impressed to take bronze in the team race. Unlike the senior women’s race – which heralded a rare team medal – this was Japan’s 11th U20 women’s bronze medal in the previous 13 editions of the World Cross Country Championships.  

Talk of the town 

In gale force winds, Gelete Burka added the women’s 4km short course title to the U20 crown she had earned the preceding year. Two years later, she offered more evidence of her versatility by taking out the women’s indoor 1500m title. 

Mang’ata Ndiwa held off teammate Leonard Komon to strike individual gold in the U20 men’s race to ensure Kenya took an 18th team title from the past 19 editions of the race. 

Sileshi Sihine bounced back from stumbling and falling in the men’s 4km (eventually hauling himself from the ground to place a creditable 12th) to the following day taking individual silver for Ethiopia in the long course race. 

Benita Johnson also doubled up, completing 12km of running across the two senior women’s race to place fourth and just outside the medals in both the long and short course events. But the Australian, who triumphed at the 2004 World Cross, at least had the consolation of helping her country earn team bronze in the short course race. 


For the first time, athletics fans in North, Central and South America could follow the race by live webcast by the World Championships Sports Network. A one-hour summary programme was also made available every day across all of the Americas. 


The very first World Cross Country Championships to take place in Asia was a huge moment for the event and subsequently the continent staged the 2009 and 2015 editions in Amman, Jordan and Guiyang, China. The event being staged in Japan was also a big moment of celebration for one of the world’s most passionate distance running nations. The Fukuoka event also brought the curtain down on the short course race at the championships.  

Steve Landells for World Athletics








5度目のショート・ロング種目でタイトルを手にしたのはケネニサ・ベケレであった。 エチオピアの英雄はポール・テルガトの持つ大会記録に匹敵するタイ記録をマークした。



















World Athletics Steve Landells
World Athletics 大久保マイケル拓磨



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