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General News 27 March

Junior Women Race World Cross Country Championships

Kidane kicks off World Cross Country Championships in Style
Phil Minshull for IAAF in Belfast

Werknesh Kidane may only be 18 but she proved that experience counts for everything when it comes to winning world cross country titles.

Third last year in Marrakesh, she drew on the knowledge acquired in Morocco to turn bronze into gold 12 months later.

"I had hoped to win after last year," the Ethiopian schoolgirl said. "Last year I learnt about what was needed to come first."

Kidane stepped on the accelerator just after the half way point of the 6,124m race and after that there was little question that Ethiopia were going to notch up their third junior women’s individual title in the last four years.

"I started just running with my friends. There was no real tactics but the race just worked out that way. I had no problem staying in front when I took the lead because I was in good condition," Kidane added.

A group of eight comprising of four Ethiopians, two Japanese

runners, Kenya’s Vivian Cheruiyot and the Czech Republic’s Helena

Volna pulled clear of the chasing pack after a barely a kilometre

Japan’s Yoshiko Fujinaga made an early bid to break up the Ethiopian contingent by pushing the pace but soon opted for a less audacious style of running.

Kidane though was not going to be denied after making the decision to go it alone.

She quickly established a five second gap over Cheruiyot, who had moved confidently into second place, passing through 4km in 13:47.

Baring a noticeable resemblance to her compatriot and two-time world champion Derartu Tulu, Kidane increased her advantage to eight seconds early in the final lap and never flagged despite her commanding lead.

Kidane crossed the line in 21:26, with Cheruiyot 11 seconds in arrears.

However the diminutive Kenyan, surely the smallest person ever to have won a world cross country championship medal at just 146cm tall in her training shoes, believes her time will come next year in Vilamoura.

"I was fifth last year so I came here expecting a place in the top three. Next year Kidane will not be a junior next year so I think it might be my turn to get a gold medal," a beaming Cheruiyot said.

Despite her tiny frame - she is nicknamed kadogo in the Kenyan team which means ‘small person’ in swahili and also regularly referred to as ‘shrimp’ - Cheruiyot trains three times a day.

"I may be small but I am tough," she joked in her faltering English.

All the medallist left the Northern Ireland capital happy. The early leader Fujinaga, 14th last year, produced Japan’s first ever world cross country individual medal.

"I can’t believe it," the delighted Japanese runner said. "this is far beyond what I thought I would do."

She is guaranteed instant celebrity status in running-mad Japan after being interviewed by Japanese television crews long after the race and medal ceremony were over.

Kidane picked up a second gold medal when Ethiopia took the team honours with 18 points. Kenya, like last year, had to settle for second with 28 points despite having all four scorers in the top ten.


Winner - Worknesh Kidane (ETH)
After coming third last time I was hoping to win this year. I worked really hard at it and with God’s help I won it. I didn’t have a specific plan. In the beginning I was just hoping to run with my friends, and after that it was just God’s will that it worked out that way. After I made the break it wasn’t so hard to stay ahead because I felt really strong.

 Second - Vivian Cheruiyot (KEN)
‘I had no major problems with the course, the run went very well.’

 Third - Fujinaga Yoshiko (JPN)
‘No, I’m not disappointed that I didn’t come first or second, it’s my style to stay behind… it’s a team effort, at the end of the day that’s what’s important. The Kenyans are excellent competition and I didn’t really expect to pass them, but overall I’m happy.’