After three years in Kenyan hands, Ethiopia regained the Junior Men’s individual title over 8 kilometres today as Ibrahim Jeilan used his proven track speed to see off his challengers in the 36th IAAF World Cross Country Championships at Holyrood Park. Jeilan, the World Junior 10,000m champion, thus made up for his failure to finish in the corresponding race in Mombasa last year and for his fifth place in Fukuoka two years ago.
The 18-year-old Jeilan was thrilled with his victory not only for himself and his country but also for the name of his club, Muger Cement Sports Club.” He had seen Genzebe Dibaba win the Junior Women’s title 30 minutes earlier and taken the boost of her victory with him into his race.
“The reason that it was engraved in my head was the fact that, from our club, it was her, myself and Kenenisa (Bekele) who qualified for these World Cross Country Championships, so I had a dream that the three of us would win gold for our club and for our country,” Jeilan said. “That was what I was aiming for.” So it was now up to Bekele, winner of 10 senior individual World Cross Country titles, to complete Jeilan’s desired hat-trick later in the afternoon. Some 90 minutes later, Bekele duly obliged, regaining his title.
Jeilan, after his third consecutive domestic title, had believed that he was ready to become World Junior Cross Country champion. Tactically, he was faultless, content to let Benjamin Kiplagat, from Uganda, and Mathew Kipkoech Kisorio, from Kenya, make most of the running. Kiplagat, especially, took it on from the front and, for this, he deserved better than the fourth place that was waiting for him at the finish after Ayele Abshero, Jeilan’s compatriot, took the silver medal and Lucas Kimeli Rotich, from Kenya, the bronze.
It was Kiplagat, seeking to become Uganda’s first winner of the title and easily picked out for his height and yellow singlet, who forced the pace through halfway, with Kisorio in close attendance just behind. Kisorio is the son of the late Some Muge, who was Kenya’s first medallist in these championships, with senior bronze at Gateshead, England, in 1983.
By the third of the four laps, the lead group was down to 10 athletes, with Jeilan and Abshero running smart, letting the likes of Kiplagat, Kisorio, and Rotich shield them from the wind on the rain-soaked course. Abshero occasionally forced his way in between the front runners, without ever taking a distinct lead and, entering the final lap, Kiplagat still looked strong at the front. The lead group was now down to six athletes.
In the seventh kilometre, another of the Kenyans, Titus Kipjumba Mbishei, took on the running and still six athletes were in contention. Then the picture changed suddenly and dramatically up the side of the steep Haggis Knowe (hill). Abshero took it on, stretching the front group and, as they came down the other side, Jeilan, Abshero and Rotich were in the medal positions.
Jeilan was the smoothest of the three on the awkward downhill and he pulled comfortably away along the flat run for home, clocking 22:38. Abshero followed in 22:40 and Rotich took third in 22:42.
“I am very happy,” Jeilan added. “I prepared extremely hard for this and Allah has made my dream come true. From when I first started running, I wanted to succeed in cross country and the track and now I have achieved my goals. My team-mate (Abshero) helped me a great deal. It was his move at the front that allowed me to eventually take the lead and use my fast finish. I think we worked together very well.”
Asked whether he was disappointed not to have taken the gold, Abshero said: “Every time you enter a competition, you enter hoping to win, so I was hoping to win. But I am very happy with this result.” By contrast, Rotich said: “I was disappointed, it was a tough race. The last two laps didn’t feel so good. I am not pleased at all.”
At least Rotich had the consolation of leading Kenya to team gold medals. Rotich, Mbishei, Kisorio and Peter Kimeli Some combined to score 21 points and give Kenya their 10th successive Junior Men’s team title and their 20th in 21 years. Ethiopia (28pts) took team silver and Uganda (37) bronze. Japan were the best of the non-African nations (4th).
David Powell for the IAAF