30 MAR 2003 General News 30 March 2003 – Lausanne

Double-double for Bekele - men's long course race in Lausanne

Bekele tastes second Lausanne World Cross gold (Getty Images)Bekele tastes second Lausanne World Cross gold (Getty Images) © Copyright

LausanneSuccessfully completing his backtoback defences of his two World cross country titles at the 31st IAAF World Cross Country Championships, crowned Kenenisa Bekele as the greatest cross-country runner in the 100-year international history of the sport.

In the space of 24 hours and five minutes the Ethiopian repeated the double first uniquely achieved by him the previous year. He retained both the short and long course titles on a dry, fast trail built on the Swiss National Equestrian Centre at Avenches.

He is already a legend, though he has yet to celebrate his 21st birthday.

It is an achievement which taxes the lexicon of sporting superlatives. His mentor, Haile Gebrselassie, the most prolific World and Olympic endurance title-winner, and multiple record-breaker, has failed to win either of these races even once.

The Ethiopian covered the testing 12,355 metre course in 35min 56sec, finishing 13 seconds clear of Kenya's Patrick Ivuti with Gebre-egzibher Gebremariam taking the bronze for Ethiopia in 36:17.

He glided effortlessly past lapped runners enduring their own personal Calvary, then blessed himself a few strides before crossing the line.

For the fourth time in the past four editions of this race, Kenya had only one medallist on the podium. Not since the fifth of Paul Tergat's victories, in 1999, have they had a long-course champion.

The Kenyan team dynasty continued, however, for Gebremariam was followed across the line by Richard Limo, Paul Koech, and John Cheruiyot Korir, clinching Kenyan team gold with a total of 17 points. Ethiopia took silver with 23, then Morocco, on 51. Spain and Portugal followed, but of the first 11 teams, all but three were African nations.

Abraham Cherono sacrificed himself by setting a fierce pace, 2:41 for the opening kilometre, and after two of the six laps (3830m) had been completed in 10:52, only six contenders remained in the lead group, four of them Kenyan.
Bekele made his big effort at the start of the final 1705m lap, and surged hard up the artificial hill.

Ivuti, runner-up to Tergat in 1999, and fourth in the Olympic 10,000m, clung on grimly alone, finding himself on the receiving end of traditional Kenyan tactics, being closely marshalled by the two Ethiopians.

For Britain, where the sport's first international championships were staged in 1903, it was a dismal centenary celebration. For the first time they failed to finish in the team event.

Somalian-born Mebrahtom Keflezighi placed eleventh for the USA, but the first finisher not to have been born in Africa was Portugal's Eduardo Henriques, sixteenth.

Sergiy Lebid, the three-times European champion, from Ukraine, dropped out at half distance, already buried in 23rd, and 35 seconds off the pace. He also failed to finish last year, following second in 2001. He had been unbeaten in six races on the country this winter.

Doug Gillon (The Herald) for IAAF