Athletes from Bahrain dominated the scene in the 11th Asian Cross Country Championships held in Quingzhen, China, on Saturday (24).
World championship finalists Shitaye Eshete and Tejitu Daba led the assault in the women’s race while reigning Asian Games gold medallists Bilisuma Shume and Hasan Mahboob Ali did the front running at the men’s event.
With a change in the organising cycle of the IAAF World Cross Country Championships that came in to effect from this year, the focus turned to area and regional championships. After the previous edition of Asian Cross held in Bahrain three years ago, the 11th edition was originally scheduled in Nepal during 2011. However the mountain nation could not conduct it as planned owing to some administrative reasons and hence the People’s Republic of China had to organise it this year.
Shitaye Eshete, who finished a creditable 11th place in the World Cross at Bydgoszcz two years ago and one place behind last year at Punta Umbria, used all her experience to triumph in the ladies race in a time of 26:14. On the track, the 21-year-old Eshete was a Worlds finalist in Daegu with her sixth place effort at 10,000m and went on to finish fifth in the 3000m at the World Indoor Championships in Istanbul earlier this month.
Tejitu Daba, another Daegu finalist in the 5000m and also with multiple World cross appearances clocked 26:50, nine seconds ahead of compatriot Genzebe Shami, for the second spot.
Although Bilisuma Shume and Hasan Mahboob Ali initially led the men’s race, country-mate Alemu Bekele took over in the waning moment and went on to win the 12k event in 35:33. Teammate Dejene Regassa, reigning Asian champion over 5000m at Kobe last year, edged Shume 35:39 to 35:41 while Ali finished fourth in 36:18.
Japan, the former Asian powerhouse in athletics and still a force to be reckoned with in distance running in the continent, made serious efforts to deliver a commendable show in the junior races. Shota Baba took the 8k for junior men in 25:07 whereas Miyuki Uehara annexed the prime place among the junior women in 6k at 20:26. With the World Cross Country Championships returning to Bydgoszcz next year, some of these young wonders are expected to aim for high ambitions in Poland.
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Ram. Murali Krishnan for the IAAF