General News Fukuoka, Japan

World Cross Country Doublers - MEN: More than Bekele

Kenenisa Bekele at the IAAF Press Conference - St-Etienne/St-Galmier (Getty Images)Kenenisa Bekele at the IAAF Press Conference - St-Etienne/St-Galmier (Getty Images) © Copyright

The 34th IAAF World Cross Country Championships, Fukuoka, Japan (1-2 April) mark the last time that the short race will be included in the competition programme of the World Cross Country, and as such this is the last year when a long and short race double will be possible. Marty Post now gives his historical overview of doubling history...

MEN

Kenenisa Bekele is surely the most renowned competitor in the history of the IAAF World Cross Country Championships to have run both the long and short distance races. He has won each of the senior races the past four years and is the odds-on favourite to make it 10 such combined titles as the double races comes to a close this year in Fukuoka.

From the first year of their inception there have been a number of men attempting both races, and only 10 have managed to complete two more than once. Bekele has four doubles (2002-2005) while little-known Rees Buck of New Zealand and Sergey Zabavski of Tajikistan managed triple doubles.

Here is how those who have completed both races have fared through the years:

* 1998 - Kudakwashe Shoko of Zimbabwe had the honor of being the first man to complete both races, finishing 51st in the long race after a 32nd in the short run. Elijah Mutandiko was just behind his countryman in the long race (55th), but placed only 83rd the day before. Papua New Guineau had three men across the line in both races – David Kania, Gumsie Taulobi and Ken Mova – however one had to go deep in the Marrakech results to find them as they all placed from 154th to 163rd in the long race and 92nd to 98th in the short one.

* 1999 – Twelve harriers did the double in Belfast. Canada's Jeff Schiebler took top honors with a combined place of 116 points (56 short, 60 long) to top Zimbabwian Michael Ngaaseke (51, 69). Another Canadian, Jeremy Deere, was the only other man to place in the top 100 (70, 79) in both races. George Majaji, Tsungai Mwenengeni, Kudakwashe Shoko and Maxwell Bangani gave Zimbabwe a full house of five doublers.

* 2000 – For the first time a man placed in the top ten of both races as the Ukraine's Sergey Lebed, tenth in the short race followed up with an eighth in the long race. Ngaaseke showed good form with a 17th and 28th, and Rwandan Joseph Nsengiyuma was the unofficial 'bronze doubler' with a 52nd position short race and 60th long. Mehdi Chebli was the first man ever to place in exactly the same position in both races – 142nd. There were 16 double finishers, including three from Gibraltar who traveled to nearby Vilamoura for the Championships weekend.

* 2001 – John Yuda of Tanzania was the class of the doublers, 14th and 27th in the two races. Russian Sergey Lukin (51st, 36th) and another Tanzanian, John Nada Saya (32nd, 64th) were the only other men in Ostend to total less than 100 points for the two races. Fourteen men completed both senior races, although it should be noted that Kenenisa Bekele was second in the senior short race a day before winning the junior men's title.

* 2002 – The Bekele era began in astonishing style as not only did he did he run both races in Dublin, but he won both of them. More incredibly, no-one else was within a 'country mile' of emulating him as Pacifique Ayabusa of Rwanda, the next best doubler, couldn't even break 100 total (38th short course, 67th long). Five of the 12 doublers didn't finish in the top 100 in either race.

* 2003 – Kenenisa Bekele repeated his double win but at least there were some more respectable performances behind him. Khalid el Amri of Morocco had the best ever non-Bekele double  (6th short, 10th long) and countryman Abderrahim Goumri was 10th and 15th. Only nine men completed both races in Lausanne.

* 2004 – If Bekele had never run these races in Brussels then another Ethiopian, Gebre-egziabher Gebremariam, would have become the second man to score a World XC double as he finished second behind Bekele in both races. Australian Craig Mottram turned in the best non-African double ever with a ninth short course and 13th long course. Eleven men crossed both finish lines.

* 2005 – Bekele led the way again in both races in what was the greatest year for double competitors. Four other men totaled less than 20 placings with three of them in the top 10 of both races: Abudllah Ahmad Hassan (8th, 3rd), Saif Saaeed Shaheen (4th, 8th), Dejene Birhanu (7th, 6th), Jamal Bilal Salem (5th, 12th). Eleven of the 15 doublers in Saint Galmier totalled under 100 place points.

Marty Post for the IAAF