Both Bekeles beaten in Edinburgh, Britton reigns supreme

Kenenisa Bekele and Atelaw Bekele both suffered defeats at the Bupa Great Edinburgh Cross-Country, while Fionnuala Britton was top woman

Fionnuala Britton (Mark Shearman)

With Kenenisa Bekele’s mixed 2011 season ending on a high, it seemed as though the great Ethiopian was back to his best. But after a disappointing showing at today’s Bupa Great Edinburgh Cross-Country, the athletics world is still no closer to knowing whether Bekele will be a genuine threat at this year’s Olympics.

Bekele dropped out of last year’s World Championships – his first competitive appearance for more than 18 months – but rebounded just a few weeks later with a world-leading run over 10,000m in Brussels.

But today was another off-day for the double Olympic champion and he finished well off the pace in the international 3km race. Namesake Atelaw Bekele, the European cross-country champion, was also beaten in the senior men’s team race.

It was Kenya’s Asbel Kiprop, the Olympic 1500m champion, who ran away with the 3km title. He bided his time before unleashing his well-timed attack on the final lap, overtaking Britain’s Ross Millington, who was a surprise leader through the first two kilometres.

Kiprop won in 9:20 with a comfortable margin over the field. Former world 5000m champion Eliud Kipchoge had looked set to finish second, but he was overtaken on the line by British youngster Jonny Hay, who enjoyed perhaps his best ever international performance. Kipchoge did manage to hold off a fast-finishing Juan Carlos Higuero.

Three other British youngsters – Ricky Stevenson, Millington and Callum Hawkins – took the next three places, not only taking the scalp of Bekele in 11th, but also of European 1500m champion Arturo Casado.

When relative unknown Atelaw Bekele scored a runaway victory at last month’s European Cross-Country Championships, he took the field by surprise and won by a considerable margin.

But in today’s team race – where Great Britain took on the USA and Europe – everyone was aware of who he was and his opponents did not allow him to steal a march again. In particular it was Ayad Lamdassem, silver medallist at the European Cross for the past two years, who kept a close eye on his Belgian rival.

Unlike his run at the Europeans, Bekele stayed with the pack for the early stages. He was closely tracked by Spain’s Lamdassem, Ireland’s Joe Sweeney, Britain’s Steve Vernon and Frank Tickner and USA’s Bobby Mack.

The positions did not change much for the majority of the race, although Bekele and Lamdassem had built up a bit of a margin over the final lap. But the Spaniard kicked hard when attacking the final hill and suddenly opened up significant distance over Bekele, driving hard to the line and winning in 25:44.

With a fast finish, Mack of the USA sprinted past Bekele on the line to take second, both athletes clocking 25:47, while Tickner was top Briton in fifth (25:55).

While Atelaw Bekele was unable to replicate his European victory, Ireland’s Fionnuala Britton put in an almost identical display to her winning run from Velenje last month. The steeplechase specialist was once again the picture of focus as she gradually pulled away from the field.

Great Britain’s Gemma Steel tried her best to stick with Britton but could never quite catch her. While Britton’s lead was growing with each lap, further down the field there was a battle for minor places. Britain’s Steph Twell was challenging the leaders during the early stages, but later faded and was caught by team-mates Elle Baker and Freya Murray.

Britton powered to the finish a clear leader, covering the 6km course in 21:32, with Steel 20 seconds behind, a comfortable second-place finisher. Baker finished third (22:08), three seconds ahead of USA’s Neely Spence, with Murray taking fifth place.

The junior races took place earlier in the programme with USA coming out on top in the team standings of both events. But individually, European junior cross-country champion Emelia Gorecka was a convincing winner of the women’s race.

The young Briton caught early leader Erin Finn of the USA half way into the 4km race and went on to extend her lead, winning in 14:48 with a margin of 21 seconds over Aisling Cuffe, who led a trio of Americans.

Kirubel Erassa of USA overtook long-time leader Mark Shaw in the closing stages of the junior men’s race, winning in 19:54. Kieren Clements overtook his British team-mate Shaw as they approached the finish line, clocking 19:55 and 19:58 respectively.


Men’s 3km
1 Asbel Kiprop (KEN) 9:20
2 Jonny Hay (GBR) 9:25
3 Eliud Kipchoge (KEN) 9:26
4 Juan Carlos Higuero (ESP) 9:26
5 Ricky Stevenson (GBR) 9:30
6 Ross Millington (GBR) 9:34
7 Callum Hawkins (GBR) 9:39
8 Arturo Casado (ESP) 9:40

Men’s 8km
1 Ayad Lamdassem (EEP) 25:44
2 Bobby Mack (USA) 25:47
3 Atelaw Bekele (BEL) 25:47
4 Jon Grey (USA) 25:52
5 Frank Tickner (GBR) 25:55
6 Javier Guerra (ESP) 26:00
7 Steve Vernon (GBR) 26:00
8 Tom Humphries (GBR) 26:07

Team standings
1 Europe 44
2 Great Britain 58
3 USA 76

Women’s 6km
1 Fionnuala Britton (IRL) 21:32
2 Gemma Steel (GBR) 21:52
3 Elle Baker (GBR) 22:08
4 Neely Spence (USA) 22:11
5 Freya Murray (GBR) 22:17
6 Hatti Dean (GBR) 22:29
7 Roxana Barca (ROU) 22:32
8 Hannah Walker (GBR) 22:33

Team standings
1 Great Britain 33
2 Europe 61
3 USA 89

Junior men’s 6km
1 Kirubel Erassa (USA) 19:54
2 Kieron Clements (GBR) 19:55
3 Mark Shaw (GBR) 19:58
4 Eddie Owens (USA) 20:08
5 Andrew Gardner (USA) 20:10
6 Sean Tobin (IRL) 20:15
7 Michael Bradjic (USA) 20:19
8 Thomas Curtin (USA) 20:21

Team standings
1 USA 16
2 Great Britain 26
3 Europe 48

Junior women’s 4km
1 Emelia Gorecka (GBR) 14:48
2 Aisling Cuffe (USA) 15:09
3 Molly Siedel (USA) 15:17
4 Katie Knight (USA 15:24
5 Iona Lake (GBR) 15:27
6 Jessica Jackson (USA) 15:29
7 Erin Finn (USA) 15:30
8 Irene van Lieshout (NED) 15:36

Team standings
1 USA 15
2 Great Britain 27
3 Europe 62

1 Great Britain 144
2 USA 196
3 Europe 215

» See next week’s Athletics Weekly for a full report, results and pictures from Ediburgh

2 Responses to “Both Bekeles beaten in Edinburgh, Britton reigns supreme”

  1. John Offord says:

    Bring back the good old days of cross country running.
    To arrange an irrelevant meeting on the same day as the County Cross Country Championships is beyond belief.
    Athletes with the stature of Ron Hill, Basil Heatley, Roy Fowler and others regularly turned out in their county championship , which held a lot more importance than it does today
    Also a true test of cross country running was the nine miles National race, which determined who ran in the International Championships.

  2. Guest says:

    I agree to some extent with John; it does appear to conflict with the County Champs.

    With regard the National; I think it is a shame the National is not the selection race for the WCC but 9 miles is not right.

    However it does appear to me with WCC every two years and the European XC happens pre XMas the competitive winter XC season is now over by the end of December when there is no WCC? Sadly I think XC will continue to diminish in importance to aspiring young athletes who dont fully understand its relevenece in developing race tactics, strength.

    I remember as a young junior watching Steve Cram in 83 (I think) coming in the top 6 in the inter counties. I seem to recall he went on to win the World 1500M in Helsinki that year….!!!! Need I say more…

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