Newcastle, UKA fascinating distance running duel is scheduled to occur, when Britain’s Paula Radcliffe the reigning double World Cross Country champion, faces Ethiopia’s Gete Wami in the Great North Cross Country - IAAF Permit – on Sunday 4 January.
Wami who has won the World Cross Country championships on three occasion (two long course & one short course titles), has like Radcliffe made a successfully transition to the marathon this year.
A week after Radcliffe's world best run in Chicago (2:17:18), the Ethiopian made her debut at the marathon in Amsterdam on 20 October, winning in a national record of 2:22:19.
Past cross country and track battles between the two rivals, have produced some spectacular races, and there is no reason their clash in Newcastle's Exhibition Park on January 4 will be not be equally mouth watering.
The best 'head to head' of these two cross country greats came at the 2001 World Championships in Ostend, when in a thrilling long course race, Radcliffe achieved a lifetime ambition when winning the long course title. There she brushed aside the myth that she didn’t have a sprint finish, and roared away from Wami. The next day, in another nail biting finish, Wami won the short course title from the Briton.
On the track no one will ever forget their memorable 10,000m encounter in 1999 at the IAAF World Championships in Seville. There a thrilling race was won by Wami, after Radcliffe had courageously led from the front for most of the 25 laps, before Wami stormed to victory.
Adding spice to the New Year encounter is that both Radcliffe and Wami, who celebrated her 28 Birthday yesterday, have each won Britain’s most prestigious cross country race on three occasions.
"If any needle was needed between them, both know they can go ahead in the victory stakes," said Peter Elliott the elite athletes co-ordinator for the race, who clinched the deal for Wami to return to Tyneside for the 6km event, earlier this week. "They're both great athletes who will bring their world class ability to what I am certain will provide an exciting start to next year's international cross country calendar."
Highlight of the men's 9km race promises to be the clash between Ethiopia’s reigning double World Cross County champion Kenenisa Bekele, and 2002 World Half Marathon gold medallist Paul Kosgei of Kenya.