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Masai defends title in Lausanne

30 March 2003– Avenches, Lausanne Switzerland – Play it again Sam. One would have been forgiven for thinking where have I seen this before, when Kenya’s Edith Masai won the Women’s Short Course title on Sunday. Because, she repeated her win and in 2nd place was Ethiopia’s Werknesh Kidane, again.

Edith Masai 2003The difference on this occasion was that Kidane had to satisfaction of having won the Women’s long course title the day before. Masai however, was content to add to her growing reputation and list of titles that she has collected over the last year.

Masai, 35, was always to the fore and broke away in the finishing straight to come home in 12:43. The Kenyan looks very young for her age, and her performances are often laced with youthful exuberance. Having come to the sport rather late in life after the separation from her husband in 1999, she is now certainly making up for lost time, as she surges to the fore on the international stage of Women’s athletics.

Kidane, 21, would have been excused for being a little leg-weary when it came to the crucial stages, which was not surprising after the punishing events of the previous day. The Ethiopian finished just one second behind Masai, but the Kenyan’s victory was fairly conclusive. However, one must remember that this was a repeat of last years finishing positions, where on that occasion she was 6 seconds adrift of Masai. The Ethiopian has shown marked improvement.

Masai the Kenyan prison officer, is now more than providing for her son, as she graduates to the heedy hieghts of World Class. She now has the opportunity to take her winter performances to the track, and the World Track Championships in Paris, France. Where her dual with her Easy African rivals will continue, no doubt.

Jane Gakukyi, who was only fifth in the Kenyan short course championships, beat the Kenyan champion Isabella Ochichi to the bronze medal.

In fifth, Australia’s Benita Johnson was one position lower than her superb fourth place at the 2002 IAAF World Cross Country Championships in Dublin. The 23-year-old was nevertheless the first non-African runner home. The first European was Alla Zhilyayeva of Russia.

Tirunesh Dibaba of Ethiopia, the winner of the junior race 24 hours earlier, was seventh.

After Kenyans and Ethiopians had filled eight of the top 10 spots, Kenya won the team race from Ethiopia and Morocco.

A pleasing aspect for the home crowd was the performance of Anita Weyermann, now 25, who has previously shown much promise as a junior and ‘fledgling’ senior. She has however, suffered with injuries over the last few years after having won World junior titles on the track in 1994 and 1996, the European cross country title in 1999 and finished fourth in this race in Marrakech in 1998. Her 40th place is encouraging and this boosted the home support to rapturous applause.

Women’s results
1 Masai KEN 12:43
2 Kidane ETH 12:44
3 Gakunyi KEN 12:46
4 Ochichi KEN 12:48
5 Johnson AUS 12:48
6 Denboba ETH 12:52
7 Dibaba ETH 12:54
8 Zhilyayeva RUS 12:56
9 Dibaba ETH 12:59
10 Kuma ETH 12:59

1. Kenya, 18 points.
2. Ethiopia, 24.
3. Morocco, 61.
4. Russia, 79.
5. Australia, 96.

View the reports to get a feel of the 2003 Championships:

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