Belgian Bekele takes Euro Cross men’s race

Ethiopian-born Belgian runner ends Sergiy Lebid’s dominance, while Brits take team silver

Atelaw Bekele (Mark Shearman)

Kenenisa Bekele has dominated the IAAF World Cross Country Championships in the past decade. Now, his namesake and fellow countryman, Atelaw Bekele, won the European title in Velenje on Sunday.

The 24-year-old, who was running in the colours of his adopted country Belgium and is no relation to the famous multi-world cross winner, employed gun-to-tape tactics to win by five seconds in 29:15. Ayad Lamdassem of Spain sprinted past Jose Rocha of Portugal for silver in the closing stages, while Joe Sweeney ran superbly for Ireland in fifth place.

The big story, though, was Sergiy Lebid’s failure to win his 10th senior men’s title. The Ukrainian dropped out while languishing down the field, surely bringing an end to the 36-year-old’s proud reign at the Euro Cross. He had earlier hinted he was not in great shape after heavy snow had ruined his usual early winter altitude training camp in Russia.

Racing on the flat, twisty course, Bekele stamped his authority on the event from the early stages. He came to Belgium when he was 16, but had prepared at altitude in his former homeland of Ethiopia before the championships, warmed up with a home soil cross country victory at Roeselare last month and was keen to improve on his background in the Euro Cross, which included bronze in the under-23 race in 2009.

It was also a slightly disappointing race for the Britons. UK Trials winner Andy Vernon had hoped to make the top five but placed ninth. He was followed by Ryan McLeod in 13th, James Walsh 15th, Mark Draper 22nd, Andy Baddeley 25th and Frank Tickner 37th as the team won a pleasing set of silver medals behind France and ahead of traditional men’s powerhouses Spain and Portugal.

Great Britain ended the day as clear leaders of the medals table with six golds, five silver and one bronze – comfortably ahead of France, who won two golds and two bronze.

» This Thursday’s issue of Athletics Weekly will feature much more coverage from the Euro Cross, with photos of all races, in-depth reports and analysis over 11-12 pages of the magazine.

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