Sonia O'Sullivan winning at the 1998 World Cross Country Championships (Getty Images) © Copyright
General News Fukuoka, Japan

World Cross Country Doublers - WOMEN: Two Perfect Attempts

The 34th IAAF World Cross Country Championships, Fukuoka, Japan (1-2 April) mark the last time that the short race will be included in the competition programme of the World Cross Country, and as such this is the last year when a long and short race double will be possible. Marty Post now gives his historical overview of doubling history...


Unlike the men, women were supremely successful from the start at doubling up at the IAAF World Cross-Country Championships. Back in 1998, Sonia O'Sullivan of Ireland followed up a victory over the long race 8km distance with a second one the following day in the inaugural 4km short race event.

Seven years later Tirunesh Dibaba of Ethiopia 'bookended' the honour roll of double champions with twin wins at Saint-Etienne/Saint-Galmier, France. There have also been a number of close double win misses throughout the eight years of this competition.

Sixteen women have doubled more than once led by four-timers Restituta Joseph and Samukeliso Moyo (1998-2001); Werknesh Kidane could have equalled that accomplishment this year but was not named to the Ethiopian team.

Here is how women doublers have fared through the years:

* 1998 – Sonia O'Sullivan beat Paula Radcliffe in the long race, but even more impressive was her overwhelming victory over the short course, leading the field by 14 seconds. Tanzanian Restituta Joseph was a respectable 5th (long) and 17th (short), while Zimbabwe's Samukeliso Moyo's two-race total of 36 points (26 and 10) was just one more than New Zealand's Nyla Carroll (23 and 14). Seven women finished both races in Marrakech.

* 1999 – Joseph moved up one place to become the best woman doubler in Belfast with a twelfth place long course followed by a fifth in the short race. Romanian Constantina Dita led Finland's Annemari Sandell by eight places, 14th to 22nd, in the first event, but Sandell's bronze medal finish the next day was similarly eight places better than Dita, giving them both a two-day total of 25 points. Romanians fielded four other women – Luminita Gogirlea, Cristina Iloc, Olympia Pop, and Luminita Talpos – among the 13 doublers.

2000 – O'Sullivan was back and managed a 15th in the long course and 7th in the short, but in both races trailed Paula Radcliffe who finished fifth and fourth. Joseph was again in the top three with a 22nd (long) and 24th (short). As with the men a record sixteen ran both races in Vilamoura.

2001 – Radcliffe and Ethiopian Gete Wami scored the fewest total two race points that could result in an overall tie, three. Radcliffe won the long course race on the first day of Ostend competition with Wami in second; then they reversed those places the next day in the short race. Another Ethiopian, Merima Denboba, placed in the top ten in both races (8th and 4th). Joseph was fourth with three other Tanzanians and five from Ecuador among the 13 double finishers.

2002 – This was an off year for doublers as only Italy's Rosanna Martin (9th and 17th) and Portugal's Helena Sampaio (20th and 19th) totalled under 170 points. Only seven women completed the two races; four of them were from Uzbekistan.

2003 – Ethiopian Werknesh Kidane equaled the best ever African double with a long course win and second in the short course. Two of her countrywomen were next best: Denboba (3rd, 6th) and Eyersalem Kuma (4th, 10th). Nine finished both Lausanne races.

2004 – In an encore performance Kidane (3rd, 4th) led two other Ethiopian women in the top three, although she was closely challenged by Teyba Erkesso (5th, 3rd) in the double scoring. Ejagayehu Dibaba's silver medal in the long race was followed up by a tenth in the short race. Thirteen doubled in Brussels.

2005 – While Tirunesh Dibaba won both races, Kidane had nothing to be embarrassed about with a bronze in the long race and silver in the short. Isabella Ochichi had the best combined finish ever for a Kenyan woman with a fifth and a third. Fourteen crossed the finish on both days.

Marty Post for the IAAF