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The 2003 World XCountry Championships Report Back

Kenenisa Bekele Lausanne 2003

Kenenisa Bekele Lausanne 2003

The World Cross Country Championships, Lausanne, Switzerland will be again remembered for the simply breathtaking performances of one athlete, Kenenisa Bekele of Ethiopia.

Superlatives are heaped on this talent, and never more deservedly. He is a supreme talent, and we hope that he is able to transfer this to the track. He has made a brief display of this ability with a low 7:30 3000m, however we are certainly hoping for more.

The ‘double’ has been discussed so much since last year, and whereas whether it was possible for this fine Ethiopian athlete to deliver, was left for time to tell. His build-up was not perfect, interrupted training patterns through injury and illness could not put an end to his destiny.

Not even the attentions from the World’s long known best cross country exponents, Kenya, could put skids under this prodigious talent’s call towards the history books. We have seen brilliance before, however never before has so much been delivered so young. The calls will probably ring out for the triple double, however that can wait for next year. What will 2003 hold for this amazing runner ?

One of the most satisfactory aspects evident at this year’s Championship was the determination of Kenya to re-assert their traditional dominance on the weekend’s events. And they would have captured all 3 male events were it not for the brilliance of that one man, Bekele.

On the women’s side they were as successful as on the Men’s side, winning the Women’s short course title, by way of Edith Masai. However, the final score read Ethiopia 4 – Kenya 2 .. With only an American getting a look in on the African medal haul. This was the courageous Deena Drossin who also led her country to a bronze medal in the Women’s Long Course team event.

On the first day of the Championships, Ethiopia were to take all the individual Gold Medals available. In both the Women’s Junior and Long Course races, the Ethiopian winners were content to wait till the final 400m before coasting to victory.

The weather provided and the course constructed were not seen as ideal Cross Country conditions, however the performances delivered were fitting of the occasion. Strangely, it is always those who are not the victors who tend to discuss the weather and the course. Whereas, it tends to be the vitors who ‘just’ get on with the job at hand. That is what the Championship is about, getting on with it, no matter the course or weather. The gripes of the advantages of born at altitude are heard every year at this time, however the American and European athletes are no longer running the times their contemporaries were running 15 years ago. And the advantages of warm weather training at altitude are there for more athletes now, than in the past.

It was great to see Anita Weyermann of Switzerland participating in the Women’s Short course race, and one hopes that she is able to regain the form of past. Benita Johnson the ‘gutsy’ Aussie, again delivered her best, by finishing 5th in the 4k for women.

Portugal’s Eduardo Henriques was Europe’s top performer in 16th, a fine display considering the conditions. Sergiy Lebid of Ukraine, failed to deliver, and one hopes that 2004 will be a year where he is able to live up to expectations.

Edith Masai continues to amaze with the defending of her title at the age of 35, beating a host of youngsters to the title.

Britain were expecting much after Paula Radcliffe’s high of the previous year, however nothing was forthcoming, other than the performance of Charlotte Dale who will now need to live up to what is expected of her in the years to come. The men’s performances were dismal, however Christopher Thompson shows promise. Europe’s problems tend to be the many distractions, and Radcliffe has proven what commitment can bring, and no she was not born at altitude, but born with attitude.

South Africa’s performances were non-existent and they failed to send a representative in the Men’s and Women’s long course race, their 4k representation would have been better off staying at home, the country’s only bright prospect was the performance of Ivette van Blerk. Much is expected of this fine youngster, at 16, with comparisons made with her name being mentioned in the same breath of Zola Budd. Only time will tell … and one thing is different, and that their physiques at the same age are totally different.

It was great to see Uganda at the African party with Boniface Kiprop taking silver in the Junior Men’s race.

John Yuda of Tanzania was sorely missed, as his presence could have added to the atmosphere, however on the day Bekele was simply awesome.

Canada’s glimmer of hope was provided Émilie Mondor in 13th spot in the Women’s Short Course race, however they need to build on these performances, to provide a base for the future. The Americans are on a high with the performance of their women, however the American born male athletes are failing to deliver.

New Zealand can be proud of themselves for sending a team to such a distant destination, and hopefully with this attitude they are able to rekindle the flame of their past glories.

Finland, unfortunately failed to send an athlete, and this does not spell well for a country with their tradition.

It was great to see representation from Iran and the lesser known countries.

Roll on 2004

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

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