Lornah Kiplagat leading virtually from gun-to-tape, won the Netherlands’ first ever World Cross gold medal with a dominating display ahead of her "fellow" African rivals at today’s 35th IAAF World Cross Country Championships, Mombasa, Kenya.
The 32-year-old Kenyan born star who became a Dutch national four years ago when marrying coach Pieter Langerhorst, achieved a victory she had been planning for almost six months.
Kiplagat, after winning last autumn's IAAF World Running Championship title in Debrecen, Hungary with a World record time for the 20K race, commenced almost immediately preparations for Mombasa.
Today she achieved a lifetime ambition, when thwarting Ethiopia’s Tirunesh Dibaba - who beat her in last year's race – from clinching a third successive lon course crown which would have matched the feat of USA’s Lynn Jennings 13 years ago in Boston.
Kiplagat dominated the 8km race when storming to the front to hold a narrow four seconds lead after the first two kilometres of four seconds, as Dibaba and Kenya's Florence Jebet Kiplagat, gamely tracked her.
Despite Ethiopian Meselech Melkamu, last year's bronze medallist, trying to destroy her stride pattern with a brief few metres at the front, the Dutch woman always looked the stronger of the leading pack.
The former European cross country champion lengthened her lead to seven seconds after 4km, then put in a massive spurt which ultimately blew away any hopes her opponents had of making up ground.
Kiplagat's long legs extended the margin at the bell to 26seconds, ahead of Dibaba, Melkamu and Gelete Burka, - the Ethiopan's seemed to be running for the minor medals - assuring her victory unless a mishap occurred on the final circuit.
Kiplagat throwing up her arms in a victory salute, thrilled the Kenyan crowd who have always considered her to be one of them and understand her reasons for running for the Netherlands.
"It looked easy but it was not running with two champions sitting next to me, she said after her emphatic 24seconds victory.
"The only game plan I had today was to believe I could handle the heat, I've trained so hard I didn't want to let it go. I was so inspired by how all of this was arranged," she said of Kenya hosting the championships for the first time ever.”
"Lots of people were doubting if they could do it right - but they did, so I want to congratulate them for doing the job so well."
Kiplagat predominantly a road runner admitted she has learned a lot about cross country in the last 12 months - although announcing this would be her last.
She said: "I think it’s also about a bit of experience. Last year I surprised myself being second, so this time I knew what I could do and I became a winner. "Anything today for me today less than second, meant I was loser."
"I realised they were not so close to me and it could be too hot for them, so I just concentrated and thought 'This will be my last cross country c anyway so let's give it a try’."
Dibaba admitting she was disappointed said: "The competition was tough. I was hoping to get a third medal but the heat was what did the most damage. I'm not so happy about losing.”
"I cannot speak for them but I knew this was all I could do. The heat really hurt us," she said as the Ethiopian's seemed to settle for the minor medals over the final circuit.
However they did extend their winning margin to six successive victories in the team race, winning with 19 points ahead of Kenya (26) and Morocco (99).
Dave Martin – PA International – for the IAAF
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