Athletics: African pair steal show

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The Independent Online
FITA BAYESA, of Ethiopia, the 20-year-old Olympic 5,000m bronze medallist, ran smoothly away from the field to take the men's 8km title, part of the IAAF World Cross Challenge series, at Aykley Heads, Durham, yesterday. In the women's race, over 5.2km, Ethiopia's other medallist in Barcelona, the Olympic 10,000m champion Derartu Tulu, accelerated smoothly over the icy ground to finish in a sublime glide.

From a chauvinistic viewpoint, the gleam of light in the gathering gloom was provided by two 19-year-old British runners who finished second and fifth behind Tulu, respectively Paula Radcliffe and Jenny Clague. In between them, running in her first international cross-country event, were Helen Kimaiyo of Kenya and, running in her first cross-country event, South Africa's Olympic 10,000m silver medallist, Elana Meyer, who pronounced herself cold but happy with her first test-run before the world championship at Amorebieta, in Spain, on 28 March.

Tulu, talking through an interpreter afterwards, said that victory had been easy. While Meyer must presumably have been familiar with the woman with whom she ran her lap of honour in Barcelona, it was debatable how au fait she was with the rest of a field which had lost the world cross-country champion, Lynn Jennings, to the nearby Dryburn Hospital two days' earlier for an operation to remove her appendix. But she responded gamely to the question of whether she had been surprised by Radcliffe's challenge by saying that she would be the next British champion.

In the area where Radcliffe hopes to operate, that means following in the steps of the woman who won last year's event, and plenty else besides - Liz McColgan. It is a daunting task. But Radcliffe, who recently began a course in Modern European Studies at Loughborough University, has already shown that she has the stuff of which champions are made, having unexpectedly taken the world junior cross-country title in a snowy Boston last year. Yesterday, she had been expecting a place in the top 10. Afterwards, sitting next to Meyer, she still seemed startled by how well she had done. After the Bedfordshire championship, a Southern League meeting and the Ampthill Trophy, this was a different order of things. 'I didn't expect to finish that far up,' she said. 'I couldn't believe it. I just kept finding a little bit extra.'

COUNTY DURHAM INTERNATIONAL CROSS-COUNTRY: Men's 8km: 1 F Bayesa (Eth) 22min 06sec; 2 J Brown (Sheffield) 22:17; 3 D Lewis (Rossendale) 22:18; 4 B Roydon (Medway) 22:23; 5 P Dugdale (Horwich) 22:35; 6 A Bristow (Brighton) 22:39. Men's 2km: 1 D Spawforth (Wakefield) 6:43; 2 R Whalley (Stoke) 6:44; 3 M Yates (Newham) 6:49; 4 D Daniels (Cannock) 6:50; 5 B Hussain (Stockport) 6:50; 6 G Brown (Cabersport) 6:50. Women's 5.2km: 1 D Tulu (Eth) 16:23; 2 P Radcliffe (Bedford) 16:29; 3 E Meyer (SA) 16:40; 4 H Kimaiyo (Ken) 16:42; 5 J Clague (Liverpool) 17:01; 6 S Rigg (Sale) 17:07.