23 MAR 2004 General News

Johnson is Balmoral bound

Newly crowned IAAF World Cross Country champion Benita Johnson is a definite starter for the Balmoral Road Races on Saturday 8 May 2004.

Only minutes after scoring the biggest-ever shock in the history of the event, Johnson was talking about racing over 5km on the roads at Balmoral Castle, Scotland where her main rival will be training partner, Sonia O'Sullivan.

"I'm looking forward to returning to Balmoral for the meeting," said Johnson 24, who will be making her third appearance at the Grampian venue. Last year the Aussie finished second over five miles to World 10,000m title-holder, Berhane Adere of Ethiopia.

This year's programme has been revamped and will feature international races over one mile and 5km for both men and women, as well as the BUPA Great Caledonian Run - "Britain's most beautiful run" - around its traditional 10K scenic course in Balmoral Castle.

"This is Olympic year and switching from five miles to 5km is more realistic given this is one of the distances at the Games in August," said race spokesman Matthew Turnbull.

Turnbull who was in Brussels on Saturday when Johnson ran amok against the normally dominant African stars, added: "Both Benita and Sonia are more than happy to race over 5km, a distance which they both have proven records over."

Johnson is the current Oceania record holder at both 5000m and 10,000m on the track, though at the Olympics she is planning to tackle the 10,000m. Irish superstar O'Sullivan, won the 5,000m silver medal at the 2000 Sydney Games. 

"We're still building-up the field not only for this event but the other three races," added Turnbull who has replaced former Commonwealth 1500m champion Peter Elliott as the athletics manager for attracting the top runners to Scotland.