Kenenisa Bekele successfully defended the first of his two cross country titles at the World Championships in St. Galmier (France). The Ethiopian won the short course event of 4.196 k in a time of 11:33 minutes. He had a five second advantage to Abraham Chebii. In a high-class field the Kenyan, who is coached by Dieter Hogen in the newly set up KIMbia team, showed a strong performance as well. There was a second runner from KIMbia in the field: Sammy Kipketer had long been among the leaders, but in the end dropped back to 17th in 12:01.
Another Kenyan, Isaac Kiprono Songok, took third place in 11:39. Bekele will run Sunday’s long distance event as well and could win both titles for a record fourth time in a row. This would be a unique performance. “It was a difficult race for me, because I had two different sorts of feelings in my heart: grief and joy”, the 22 year-old Olympic 10,000 m Champion explained. His fiancée had died at the beginning of the year. Due to this a shattered Kenenisa Bekele had been well behind his normal form in the indoor season. But now he showed a sensational comeback.
“I am happy about my silver medal, because it was my first big international race this year. I congratulate Kenenisa on his success”, Abraham Chebii explained. During the last stage of the race it first looked as if Chebii would be able to close the gap to Bekele. And he might have caused an upset to the Ethiopian since the Kenyan has a very strong kick. “But at the moment when I wanted to start kicking there was a muddy passage on the course. So I it was difficult to change pace in there. It did not go as I had planned, but something like this can happen in a cross country race”, Abraham Chebii said.
It was the long distance event of the women that took place on Saturday. Tirunesh Dibaba won the gold medal for the first time. She had already won the 5,000 m at the World Championships in Paris in 2003 and broken the 5,000 m world indoor record this year (14:32,93). Now the 19 year-old clocked 26:34 minutes for the 8,108 k distance. As well as Bekele she earned a 30,000 US Dollar prize money. While Kenya’s Alice Timbilili was second Werknesh Kidane (Ethiopia) took the bronze medal. Both got the same time of 26:37 minutes. Last year’s surprise winner Benita Johnson (Australia) was 21 seconds behind the winner in sixth place (26:55).