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IAAF World Cross Country: Benita Johnson shocks Africa, Kenenisa Bekele too strong for Kenyans

Ethiopian Kenenisa Bekele has made the first step on his way to his third

double triumph. In a superb solo run the 21 year-old won the 4 k event at the

first day of the 32nd IAAF World Cross Country Championships in Brussels.

Clocking 11:31 minutes he left behind his two countrymen Gebre-egziab

Gebremariam and Maregu Zewdie. On Sunday he will now run the 12 k event as

well. Two years ago Bekele became the first man ever to win both distances at

the World Cross Country Championships. Now he wants to achieve this double for

the third time in a row.

It was the 8 k womens race that ended with quite a sensation. There was much

talk before these championships as to who of the long list of African top

runners entered would finally snatch the gold. But in the end African runners

were left in a state of shock, caused by an Australian: Benita Johnson. She ran

away for the gold medal on the last of the four rounds. Clocking 27:17 minutes

she left the two Ethiopians Ejegayehu Dibaba and Werknesh Kidane quite a way

behind. The 27 year-old had been strong in recent World Cross Championships

finishing sixth (2001), fourth (2002) and fifth (2003) at the short distance.

Additionally she won the bronze medal at the IAAF World Half Marathon

Championships. “I came here for a medal. And it does not really surprise

me that in the end it was the gold. I am in the best shape of my life“,

Johnson said. The mud, slight rain and wind provided perfect conditions in the

eyes of the Australian who will run the 10,000 metres in the Olympics. “I

absolutely respect all the African runners. But I knew it is possible to beat

them if you train as hard as they do“, Johnson said. After the Olympics

the Australian considers moving up to the marathon distance. “Paula has

already shown that you can make it to the top“, Johnson said. Paula

Radcliffe (Great Britain) had to cancel her start in Brussels due to a slight

muscle problem.

In a high-class mens field Kenenisa Bekele took over the lead on the very

first kilometre. He pushed the pace so hard that no-one was able to follow him

in the final stages. Former Kenyan Saif Saaeed Shaheen (Qatar), who is the

World Champion at 3000 m steeple, came in fifth while Kenya did not even won a

single medal for the first time at this short event which was first run in

1998. “The Kenyans were not as strong as I had expected. For one more

time I will try to double at these championships“, Kenenisa Bekele



Men, 4 k: 1. Kenenisa Bekele (ETH) 11:31, 2. Gebre-egziab Gebremariam (ETH)

11:36, 3. Maregu Zewdie (ETH) 11:42, 4. Abdullah Ahmad Hassan (QAT) 11:44, 5.

Saif Saaeed Shaheen (QAT) 11:44, 6. Eliud Kibet Kirui (KEN) 11:45. Teams: 1.

Ethiopia 17 points, 2. Qatar 39, 3. Kenya 52.

Women, 8 k: 1. Benita Johnson (AUS) 27:17, 2. Ejegayehu Dibaba (ETH) 27:29,

3. Werknesh Kidane (ETH) 27:34, 4. Alice Timbilili (KEN) 27:36, 5. Teyba

Erkesso (ETH) 27:43, 6. Lornah Kiplagat (NED) 27:56. Teams: 1. Ethiopia 26, 2.

Kenya 30, 3. Great Britain 74.