The Ulster crowds were treated to two exhilarating races at the stunning Stormont Estate which was bathed in sunshine with Uganda and Ethiopia taking the honours in the senior races at the Belfast Cross Country International - IAAF Permit on Saturday (6).
In the 9.5km men’s race it came down to a sprint finish between Moses Kipsiro and Tanzania’s Fabiano Joseph with the former’s superior speed earning him a narrow two-second victory.
In the women’s race Ethiopian duo Etalemehu Kidane claimed a memorable hat-trick of victories in Belfast as she edged out her compatriot Teyibo Erkesso by four seconds over the 5785m distance.
Men’s Race -
By the end of the first of five laps in the men’s race a group of five Africans had broken clear with Joseph, Kipsiro, Patrick Musyoki of Kenya, Ethiopian teenager Ibrahim Jellan and his compatriot Tedessa Tola to the fore.
But by the end of the undulating second lap Tola has dropped off the main bunch to leave a leading quartet of athletes.
Kipsiro and Musyoki shared much of the pace and on the penultimate lap Jellan, the 17-year-old World junior 10,000m champion, cracked and slipped off the back of the lead pack.
Musyoki opened up a small four-metre advantage going into the final lap but it was not to prove decisive. Midway around the last lap the Kenyan started to struggle and was passed by Kipsiro and Joseph.
But in the final stages the strength and speed of Kipsiro paid dividends as he stepped on the gas to snatch a two-second victory and go one better than his second place finish 12 months ago.
Joseph, the former IAAF World Half-marathon champion, held on for second with Musyoki clinging on for a podium finish three seconds behind Joseph.
The talented but youthful Jellan will have learned from the experience to place fourth and Tola claimed fifth. Burundi’s Jean Ndayisenga completed the African dominance by taking sixth.
A delighted Kipsiro said: “Last year I finished second in the race and this year I wanted to win. I was not worried when Musyoki broke away because I knew there was still a lap to go. I knew I would win with 800m to go because I had a better sprint than Fabiano.”
Joseph was satisfied to take second after experiencing visa problems from his native Tanzania and only arriving in Northern Ireland the night before the race.
“After arriving so late I’m very happy with second,” said Joseph. “To run so well is pleasing.”
Meanwhile, third-placed Musyoki bemoaned a stitch on the final lap which he believed cost him victory.
“I was leading by a few metres on the final lap when I got a stitch,” said Musyoki. “I had trouble with my breathing and think I would have won but for the stitch.”
Third consecutive win for Kidane – women’s race
The Africans did not have matters all their own way in the women’s race with England’s Kate Reed and Ireland’s Mary Cullen producing spirited performances to place fourth and sixth respectively.
But ultimately the two Ethiopians prevailed with course specialist Kidane overcoming Erkesso in the latter stages to win by four seconds.
At the end of the first of three laps the Ethiopian pair were to the fore but Kenya’s Mary Wacera, the World junior 5000m champion was hot on their heels with Reed lifting English spirits just out of touch with the lead pack.
By the latter stages of lap two, Kidane and Erkesso disputed the lead with Reed a further 15 metres back off the pace in third.
Kidane’s pace over the final half mile proved superior to her compatriot as she eased ahead to complete the hat-trick of wins from Erkesso. Wacera outsprinted Reed in the latter stages to take the final podium place. Fellow Kenyan Cathy Mutwa was fifth with the best Irish performance of the day coming from Cullen in sixth.
Kidane said: “I thought I would win it was a good battle. I was pleased to make it three in a row.”
Steve Landells for the IAAF
Men’s senior race (9575m)
1. Moses Kipsiro (UGA) 28:20
2. Fabiano Joseph (TAN) 28:22
3. Patrick Musyoki (KEN) 28:25
4. Ibrahim Jellan (ETH) 28:33
5. Tadessa Tola (ETH) 29:12
6. Jean Ndayisenga (BUR) 30:03
7. Mindi Pukstas (LTH) 30:04
8. Gary Murray (IRE) 30:07
9. Mark Kenneally (IRE) 30:14
10. Phil Nicholls (ENG) 30:18
Women’s senior race (5785m)
1. Etalemehu Kidane (ETH) 19:29
2. Teyiba Erkesso (ETH) 19:33
3. Mary Wacera (KEN) 19:44
4. Kate Reed (ENG) 19:45
5. Cathy Mutwa (KEN) 19:48
6. Mary Cullen (IRE) 20:02
7. Gemma Phillips (ENG) 20:22
8. Binnaz Uslu (TUR) 20:38
9. Sonia Thomas (ENG) 20:51
10. Tara Krzywicki (ENG) 20:59