The heat of Mombasa is now but a memory, a nightmare of course, in the history of Ethiopian distance running.
In cold, occasionally rainy and blustery conditions in Edinburgh’s Holyrood Park at this afternoon’s 36th IAAF World Cross Country Championships it was not just a climatic differences between the previous and current venues of these championships which were noticeable but competitive ones too.
In Kenya last year the women’s senior team title had been the only success for the green vested runners from the Ethiopian highlands otherwise they had been routed by their Kenyan hosts, Eritrea’s Zersenay Tadese and the Netherlands’ Lornah Kiplagat.
Had it just been the heat of the Indian Ocean coastal city which had defied Kenenisa Bekele, Tirunesh Dibaba and their compatriots?
Whatever the reason Ethiopian flags were enthusiastically unfurled over the course in Holyrood Park today as a large expat community among an estimated overall crowd of over 20,000 spectators, celebrated their country's first ever sweep of the four indivdual race titles in the slippery muddy conditions of the heavily rain and wind swept grass circuit.
The last time such a feat had been achieved was 1994 when Kenya’s William Sigei (Men), Hellen Chepngeno (Women), Philip Mosima (Jnr men) and Sally Barsosio (Jnr Women) occupied all the top steps of the World Cross Country podium.
Ethiopia’s Kenenisa Bekele, Tirunesh Dibaba, Ibrahim Jeilan and Genzebe Dibaba will now be lauded in Addis Ababa on their return home.
Kenya will be relieved to have pulled together team victories ahead of their foes in the senior and junior men’s race but this was redemption day time for Ethiopia’s Mombasa defeated who surprise, surprise, secured the other two team titles.
One could almost describe the day as ‘normal service resumed’ had the Ethiopian performance not in itself been unique in the annals of their all ready illustrious history at the World Cross Country Championships. .
Chris Turner for the IAAF
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