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Gebremarian takes 2002 Junior title

Unshod Gebremarian shooed home as Junior Men’s Winner
24 March 2002 – Dublin, Ireland – Nobody is keeping the statistics for how many IAAF world champions started the event with shoes and then have won their titles with no shoes. At the Leopardstown racecourse on Sunday the crowds got a chance to witness the focus and determination of the Ethiopian Gebre-egziable Gebremarian.

Gebre-egziable Gebremarian “I lost my shoe at the start of the race,” said Gebremarian, who didn’t reveal whether it had been clawed off by another runner or just by the spongy surface, which had got noticeably more muddy from Saturday after some overnight rain.

“It took me a few kilometres to get used to the sensation of running without shoes, but I’ve run barefoot in the past so it wasn’t so strange. It was always my idea to start steadily because I knew the Kenyans would try go very fast from the gun, but this wasn’t part of my plan.”

The Kenyan’s not only attempted to go out fast, but they stuck to their task of old, to send ‘rabbitts’ out to burn off their opposition. For once this tactic was not successful, as the Ethiopian patiently waited for the right opportunity only taking the lead in the finishing straight. Finishing like a steam train, albeit without shoes on a slippery uphill.

The Ethiopian junior men’s champion last month – whose full name means Servant of God, Servant of Mary – proved to be an accurate prophet in his first ever race outside of his native country.

Abel Cheruiyot and Thomas Kiplatan – who were eventually to finish 2nd and 4th – sped into the lead from the gun and after 3km of the 8km race the leading pack only consisted on five men, with Gebremarian lying back in 10th.

The Kenyan pair, assisted by their compatriot Eliud Kipchoge, were concentrating on the threat posed by Uganda’s Boniface Kiprop. However, by 6km Gebremarian had closed the gap rapidly and was in contention with the lead pack.

With 1,500m to go, Gebremarian had joined the leading quartet of the three Kenyans and Kiprop, and he was the only man to follow Cheruiyot when he surged at the bell. Coming into the final 200m, Gebremarian – whose upright style in in the fashion of many leading Ethiopian runners including the legendary Haile Gebrselassie – overtook the loping Cheruiyot and sped away for a one second victory.

Gebremarian became the first runner from the southern province of Tigray to win a title on the global stage since Miruts Yifter hit double gold at the 1980 Moscow Olympics and crossed the line in 23:18, followed closely by Cheruiyot, with Kiprop winning Uganda’s first ever individual world cross country medal in third, stopping the clock at 23:28.

Curiously, Cheruiyot and Kiprop both come from the same Kalenjin tribe that inhabits the Rift Valley, despite representing different countries, the pair living only a few miles apart and separated only by a border established in colonial times.

Kenya, despite being displaced at the top of the individual medal podium, packed well enough to lift their 14th junior men’s title in 15 years, with Kipchoge in 5th and Nicolas Kemboi in 7th completing their scoring quartet.

Gebremarian lead Ethiopia to the silver medals, while Uganda repeated their performance of last year by coming home third.

Adapted report from the IAAF.

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