runs away with 2nd
World Cross gold, USA take silver and bronze
Sean Wallace-Jones for the IAAF
23 March 2002 – Dublin, Ireland – Great Britain’s defending champion Paula Radcliffe became the first woman in ten years to successfully defend her long cross title here this afternoon and she was followed across the line by two surprise contenders as Americans Deena Drossin and Colleen De Reuck closed Ethiopia and Kenya out of the individual medal tables.
Radcliffe started this race as a firm favourite with the bookkeepers giving odds of 6-4 for her to win, but few would have predicted that two Americans would follow her across the finish line. It is the first time since 1993 that an East African has not been on the podium for this race.
Radcliffe started out strongly, moving up into the leaders as the field approached the first bend, with Drossin already at the head of the field at this point, a position that she was to maintain through much of the race.
At the end of the first lap of the 2 kilometre course, the leaders were tightly bunched with around a dozen in the pack, headed by Drossin, and including another two of the favoured medal prospects, Ethiopia’s Merima Denboba and Rose Cheruiyot from Kenya. Radcliffe was right in the centre of the pack at this stage after leading for short distances as the lead changed during this first lap.
With a lap under their belts, the leaders started to spread out a little, with Drosin still in the lead, inseparable from Radcliffe and closely followed by Cheruiyot and Denboba, a couple of seconds behind they were followed by Eyerusalem Kuma (ETH), Miwako Yamanaka and Colleen De Reuck (originally from South Africa and who acquired American nationality just 15 months ago).
Radcliffe moved into the lead as the bell sounded for the last lap and started to gradually pull in front of Drossin, with Yamanaka trailing by 14 seconds alongside De Reuck, Cheruiyot, Kuma and Denboba.
From then on it was a straight run home for Radcliffe as she built up and maintained a lead of some 30 metres over Drossin, finishing the race in 26:55 to Drossin’s second place time of 27:04..
With the first two places already assured by halfway through the last lap, the battle for bronze was being fought 100 metres back as De Reuck, Yamanaka and Kuma gradually pulled ahead of Denboba and a third Ethiopian Leila Aman.
In the end it was De Reuck who found the reserves necessary to pull ahead of Yamanaka and finish two seconds ahead of the Japanese athlete, who was given fourth in a near photo finish with Eyerusalem Kuma, also timed at 27:19.
It was the first time since Lynn Jennings took the bronze medal in 1993 that an American woman had stood on the podium of the World Cross Long Course race. Jennings was also the last woman to achieve a successful title defence in the race, which she won in 1991 and 1992.
Drossin recognised Radcliffe’s dominance after the race, saying: “I never expected to beat Paula as she is so strong and she certainly made this difficult for me.”
Drossin, who today achieved by far her best placing in the World Cross after placing twice twelth and once tenth in the past three editions, went on to praise the course: “The course was beautiful, so well manicured and it was not as hard as I imagined it would be,” sentiments echoed by her teammate and bronze medallist De Reuck: “the course is just as I imagined green Ireland to be like!”
De Reuck also could not believe how successful she had been: “My original goal was to be in the top 20 but to get a medal is unbelievable. I think that we were really running as a team and I am delighted that we got the silver team medals.”
But the unquestioned star of today was Radcliffe who was ecstatic after the race: “I am very happy to have retained my title here in Dublin. My husband is Irish and the crowd was absolutely fantastic.”
She confessed to feeling the pressure coming into the race: “I was very confident, but that made it my race to lose.
“Towards the end of the race, in the last half mile I wasn’t sure of how much of a lead I had as I was getting conflicting messages from the crowd.
“I always wanted to win here, even if my marathon debut in London has been my main focus for this season. I am glad that it hasn’t cost me the chance to win this race. Now I have got through this OK I can really focus on London.
“The wind was very strong but the course suited my style perfectly. Thank you Ireland.”
And the last word from Deena Drossin: “Paula’s marathon debut in London will be unbelievable, she never ceases to amaze me.”
Despite being out of the individual medals, the Kenyan team won the team gold, with the USA taking silver and Ethiopia bronze.