Genzebe Dibaba, showing magnificent composure over the final lap and a speedy finishing kick, won a star-studded women's international race over 3km on Saturday (5) at the Bupa Great Edinburgh Cross Country, an IAAF Cross Country Permit Meeting.
Dibaba – the younger sister of Tirunesh, the three-time Olympic gold medallist, and Ejegayehu, a former Olympic 10,000m silver medallist – ran the finish out of the tired legs of fellow Ethiopian Meseret Defar in an epic clash around Holyrood Park.
The 20-year-old World Indoor 1500m champion, winner of the first of her two IAAF World Junior Cross Country titles at the same venue in 2008, covered the last kilometre in a speedy three minutes to dent the hopes of Defar, the 2012 Olympic 5000m champion.
The pair took off ahead of Linet Masai, Kenya's three-time World cross-country silver medallist, who had injected pace at the beginning of the second circuit of the race, and a close battle seemed to be on the cards.
But Dibaba, a much more experienced performer at the winter discipline than Defar, hit the front with just under 400m remaining to cross the line in 9:46 with her countrywoman five seconds in her slipstream, while Masai took third in 9:55.
Dibaba had little to say apart from feeling it was an unexpected victory, but Defar was gracious in her praise after faltering when tremendous pressure was applied by her younger opponent at just the right time in the dash for the finish.
"She has the experience and deserved to win," said Defar, making a rare cross-country outing. "This is my first for eight years and it’s good preparation for the outdoor track season. I also ran well against Vivian and Linet who are much more experienced at cross country."
The trio were followed home by another Ethiopian, Olympic steeplechase bronze medallist Sofia Assefa who trailed Masai by a second, and a fifth African contestant Vivian Cheruiyot, the reigning World cross-country champion, who clocked 10:05.
Britton helps Europe win international match honours
Elsewhere, Europe proved themselves the stronger side in the international team match where their overall score of 154 points saw them win ahead of last year's champions Britain (175) and the United States (201).
Fionnuala Britton, who last month became the first woman to retain the European cross-country title, also won the Edinburgh race for a second successive year.
The Irishwoman who seemed she may have come under pressure from Jessica Coulson, the European under-23 cross-country champion, blew away the Briton and everyone else with a majestic last lap.
Britton ploughed herself around what still remained a fairly firm circuit, but caused a stir and some concern when slipping and falling at a brook around a half a mile from home.
But she quickly recovered her balance to dash towards the line and win by 16 seconds in 20:40 from Europe team-mate Adrienne Herzog, the Dutchwoman who was third behind Britton at the European Cross Country Championships, with USA’s team captain Mattie Suver third in 21:00.
Britton, having watched five world-class Africans compete earlier in the afternoon and although enjoying her victory, admitted: "Even though I'm known as a cross-country specialist, the track is where it really matters. It's there where I would like to improve."
The men's senior 8km race turned into a nail-biting affair when the host nation's Tom Humphries looking an inevitable winner going into the final 2km circuit maintaining the lead of 25m he had built up at the 3km point.
But his rivals raised their game and caught him with the finish line in sight. In a terrific finish, last year’s runner-up Bobby Mack of the USA edged his frame ahead of Spain's two-time European cross-country silver medallist Ayad Lamdassem in the last 15m to win by a second in 24:27.
Britain’s Andy Vernon, who had fallen off the pack in the last lap, had a second wind and pulled back to take third in 24:29 with Humphries slipping off a podium position to finish fourth in 24:32.
Bosnjak and Gorecka take junior races
With his victory over 6km, junior Dino Bosnjak gave Europe not only a winning start but also led his side to victory in the team race with 16 points ahead of the USA (29) and Britain (34).
The Croatian made a powerful burst up the final hill before fighting a shoulder-to-shoulder battle with his colleague Isaac Kimeli and beating off his challenge by a second in 19:01 with Craig Novak of the USA third in 19:03.
Emelia Gorecka, after surrendering her European cross-country title last month, had the compensation of defending her junior women's crown with a runaway 4km victory.
The World junior 3000m bronze medallist followed the early pace of Jessica Judd, her highly talented fellow Briton, who herself won the 800m silver medal in Barcelona last July.
Then just after the first kilometre Gorecka quickly hit the front to open up a huge gap and storm across the finish line 13 seconds in front of Judd, clocking 13:46 with another Briton, Rebecca Weston, third in 14:01.
Organisers for the IAAF
WOMEN’S INTERNATIONAL 3km
1 Genzebe Dibaba (ETH) 9:46
2 Meseret Defar (ETH) 9:51
3 Linet Masai (KEN) 9:55
4 Sofia Assefa (ETH) 9:56
5 Vivian Cheruiyot (KEN) 10:05
6 Emily Stewart (GBR) 10:05
7 Lisa Dobriskey (GBR) 10:07
8 Stevie Stockton (GBR) 10:19
9 Laura Muir (GBR) 10:21
10 Montana Jones (GBR) 10:23
MEN’S TEAM 8km
1 Bobby Mack (USA) 24:27
2 Ayad Lamdassam (ESP) 24:28
3 Andy Vernon (GBR) 24:29
4 Tom Humphries (GBR) 24:32
5 Sergey Lebid (UKR) 24:32
6 Carlos Castillejo (ESP) 24:37
7 Jake Riley (USA) 24:50
8 Craig Forys (USA) 24:56
9 Steve Vernon (GBR) 25:02
10 Elliot Krause (USA) 25:05
WOMEN’S TEAM 6km
1 Fionnuala Britton (IRL) 20:40
2 Adrienne Herzog (NED) 20:56
3 Mattie Suver (USA) 21:00
4 Jessica Coulson (GB) 21:05
5 Anna Dulce Felix (POR) 21:06
6 Linda Byrne (IRL) 21:06
7 Ladia Albertson-Junkas (USA) 21:08
8 Julia Bleasdale (GBR) 21:10
9 Lisa Stublic (CRO) 21:11
10 Lauren Howarth (GBR) 21:12
JUNIOR MEN’S TEAM 6km
1 Dino Bosnjak (CRO) 19:01
2 Isaac Kimeli (BEL) 19:02
3 Craig Nowak (USA) 19:03
4 Jonathan Davies (GBR) 19:07
5 Johannes Motschmann (GER) 19:08
JUNIOR WOMEN’S TEAM 4km
1 Emelia Gorecka (GBR) 13:46
2 Jessica Judd (GBR) 13:58
3 Rebecca Weston (GBR) 14:01
4 Alex Clay (GBR) 14:04
5 Bobby Clay (GBR) 14:04
1 Europe 154
2 Britain 175
3 USA 201