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Atapuerca (Burgos), SpainThe IAAF Cross Country Permit Series 2010/11 got underway today (7) with a magnificent spectacle at the 7th ‘Cross Internacional de Atapuerca’ which witnessed the shock defeated of both World Cross Country champions as Kenyans Joseph Ebuya and Emily Chebet were beaten by Eritrea’s Teklemariam Medhin and Ethiopia’s Genzebe Dibaba respectively on a cold and very windy day.
While the reigning World silver medallist Medhin pulled away from Ebuya inside the closing 400m to grab a two-second victory, Dibaba delighted with a solo run from midway to build a ten-second gap on Chebet at the tape.
Ebuya sets the pace only to be outsprinted by Medhin
The 8.925km men’s race offered an exciting rematch between the gold and silver medallists from last March’s World championships in Bydgoszcz and the encounter between Ebuya and Medhin didn’t let the crowd down.
The pace was brisk from the very beginning but by the second kilometre point a large ten-man pack led the race, all African-born athletes including Spain’s Alemayehu Bezabeh and Ayad Lamdassem.
Ebuya first took the lead with nine minutes on the clock and his relentless pace soon paid off as the leading pack was gradually whittled down. By the fifth kilometre only Medhin, his fellow Eritrean Kidane Tadese and Bezabeh were able to live with Ebuya’s rhythm.
The Kenyan World champion looked back several time asking for a relay in his pacing task – only Medhin seemed fresh enough to do so - but none of his three rivals took charge of the race.
The next withdrawals at the top were firstly Bezabeh and later Tadese while Ebuya and Medhin were ready for a two-horse battle with barely one kilometre left.
The key move was made by the 21-year-old Medhin some 350m from the finish when the long-legged Eritrean opened full gas trying to speed away from Ebuya. It seemed for a while that Ebuya responded to his attack but the Madrid-based Medhin gradually opened the gap to cross the finish line in 24:33, two seconds ahead of Ebuya while Tadese kept the minor place on the podium five seconds clear of the European champion Bezabeh.
The first European-born home was Portugal’s former World and Olympic 1500m bronze medallist Rui Silva in 11th.
A joyful Medhin, who came third last year here behind Gebremariam and Bezabeh declared: “I knew Ebuya and Bezabeh would be my stiffest opponents today. I managed to unleash a strong attack in the closing stages and luckily it paid off although I had to do my best to leave Ebuya behind. He beat me at last Worlds but I beat him today.”
Now the question mark well might be: who will beat whom at the next IAAF World Cross Country Championships to be held on the Spanish soil of Punta Umbría next 20 March?
As for Ebuya, the Kenyan ace was quoted as saying: “Any of the two of us could have won. I came here to win as I’m the world champion but Teklemariam proved to be stronger than me today and he is a fair winner. His final turn of speed was unreachable for me.”
Women's race – Dibaba retains title in style
The women’s 7.275km contest opened quite cautiously and the early stages witnessed a seven-woman leading pack comprising the European trio of Ireland’s steeplechaser Fionnuala Britton, Portugal’s Analia Rosa plus Spain’s Alessandra Aguilar and the African quartet of Kenyans Emily Chebet, Gatheru H. Wanjiru and Eunice Jepkorir alongside the defending champion Genzebeh Dibaba of Ethiopia.
Wearing long-sleeved shirts to avoid the cold, the hot favourites Chebet and Dibaba moved to the front effortlesly to leave the European contingent well-behind. The still 19-year-old Dibaba made her move with the clock reading 13:20 to build a sizeable margin on Chebet, herself well-ahead of the remaining five chasers headed by Wanjiru.
For the outstanding three kilometres the picture of the race was a powerful Dibaba ruling the event some 30m clear of Chebet; while the margin didn’t seem unobtainable for a world champion like the 24-year-old Kenyan, it was Dibaba’s effortless running which suggested the Ethiopian was on the way to her most remarkable permit win of her career.
By the end, Dibaba’s advantage increased to 10 seconds on runner-up Chebet while Wanjiru kept fast-finishing Britton at bay to conquer the minor place on the podium, both being given the same time a huge 38s behind the victor.
An elated Dibaba declared: “I’m tremendously satisfied since I have taken the race ahead of the reigning world champion and that’s great. In addition, it’s my second win in a row in Atapuerca and that makes me happy.”
The defeated Chebet explained, “It was quite a fast race where I did my very best but Dibaba has dominated from mid-race to win the contest, that’s all.”