Ethiopia grabbed the women's title in the Beijing International Road Relay (Ekiden), in the Chinese capital on Sunday (10 April) despite the host nation fielding their top two internationally known runners, Xing Huina and Sun Yingjie.
To the big disappointment of the huge home crowd that lined the city streets, Olympic women’s 10,000m champion Xing Huina was not able to drag China to the front of the race in the last leg.
The Ethiopian women's squad travelled through the marathon distance of 42.195km in 2:18:08 with defending champions China clocking 2:19:36 for second. Japan finished a distant third in 2:24:32.
In the race starting and finishing in the giant Tiananmen-square, Kenya took the men's title in 2:04:17, Spain was second in 2:04:47 and Russia third in 2:05:57.
More than 3000 runners took part to the competition split across six groups of races, which was the biggest participation in the 20-year history of the event.
National team coach Wang De said that he was really disappointed with losing the women's Road Relay title. He expressed his disappointment at both Sun Yingjie's and Xing Huina's performances in the race and said that even though this was the first competition of the season for both star runners, he had been hoping for a much better display in front of the Chinese home crowd.
Going for the double in Helsinki
In her own defence, Olympic champion Xing Huina confirmed that this Relay had really been just a training run for her because she has not yet fully recovered from the minor injuries she sustained during the 2004 season. But according to Xing, she is well on the way to top form so she can challenge for the 5000m and 10,000m double at the World Championships in Helsinki this summer. She also emphasised that she has been focusing on her speed in order to try her very best to get a medal at the shorter distance.
Her other main target will be the 10th National Games in Nanjing in October, but unlike so many Chinese athletes Helsinki will still be the most important competition for her this season.
Sun Yingjie on course for London run
She also put an end to the rumours which has been going on in China by confirming that she will not be running the London marathon later this week. Instead in the British capital, her Relay teammate, Sun Yingjie, the 2003 World 10,000m Championships bronze medallist and Asian record holder at the Marathon (2:19:39 – 2003), will instead uphold Chinese honour.
Sun Yingjie for her part confirmed that she is really happy with her present form and is waiting for a good result from London. Last season she was hampered by an injury, but now the problems are behind her.
Mirko Jalava for the IAAF
10 April 2005 - Beijing, China, Ekiden Relay (42.195k):
1, KEN 2:04:17 (E Birgen 14:11/1, D Keter 30:48/4, H Kipchumba 13:50/1, O Nyere 30:52/2, J Keino 13:54/1, E Mitei 7.195k-20:42/1);
2, ESP 2:04:47 (Higuero 14:22/2, Castillejo 29:16/1, Blanco 14:36/2, Galán 30:07/1, R García 14:29/2, J Rios 21:57/4);
3, RUS 2:05:57; 4, AUS 2:07:47;
1, ETH 2:18:08 (Sentayehu Ejigu 15:51/1, E Kumma 32:58/2, Mestawat Tufa 15:52/1, Aheza Kiros 33:56/1, Amane Gonena 15:40/1, Y Ayane 7.195k - 23:51/2);
2, CHN 2:19:36 (Zhang Chong 16:13/2, Sunj Yingjie 32:50/1, Bai Xue 16:20/2, Zhu Yanmei 34:14/2, Wang Shijuan 16:15/2, Xing Huina 23:44/1);
3, JPN 2:24:32;
4, USA 2:25:20;
5, UKR 2:29:40.