Athletics: Kibet is king of the road: Mike Rowbottom reports from Edinburgh

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The Independent Online
EDINBURGH'S answer to the New York Mile yesterday was as resonant as the city had dared to hope for. A shower of rain gave way to bright sunlight in good time to provide the inaugural Princes Street Mile races with their sporting chance as a spectacle. If there was a rainbow around, a field of runners unmatched in quality by any previous road mile were well aware that the pot of gold was located just outside the Balmoral Hotel, the finishing point for an event which had been turned from an engaging notion into reality in the space of two years.

Of the four Olympic champions enticed to the Scottish capital by a total budget of around pounds 500,000, Ellen Van Langen, winner of the 800 metres in Barcelona, was the one to sustain her form most effectively as she won the women's race ahead of Sonia O'Sullivan and Edinburgh's own Yvonne Murray in 4min 27sec for the first prize of either dollars 17,500 (pounds 8,750) or a VW car - Edinburgh's thrifty variant on the Mercedes once offered to winners of the Fifth Avenue Mile.

In the men's race Fermin Cacho and William Tanui, Olympic 1500 and 800m champions respectively, faded somewhat wearily out of contention as David Kibet of Kenya, won his first road mile with apparent ease.

What came as more of a surprise to the 30,000 spectators who lined the course was the late drive which brought Steve Cram, working on the endurance which will be required when he moves up to 5,000m next season, through to third place. Earlier in the week the man who still holds the world mile record had indicated that he might have felt happier entering the race for 'Past Masters' which preceded the main event.

It is more than three years since Kibet, officially a parachutist in the Kenyan Army, jumped out of a plane; recently he has become accustomed to landing in more conventional fashion around the world as he has become a major international performer at the comparatively late age of 28.

It may be the end of a long, hard season for him, but he is still flying. Just over a week ago he set a Kenyan 1500m record and yesterday he beat two of the men who finished ahead of him in this year's Olympic final. The bronze medallist from Qatar, Mohamed Suleiman, finished a couple of strides behind Kibet in what was given as the same time of 3min 53sec.

Victory looked only briefly within reach for Cacho, who faded away after being in touch with the two leaders, Kibet and his fellow Kenyan, Robert Chesire, at the half-way mark. Had he won, their would have been little doubt that he would have chosen the dollars 20,000 rather than the car. Cacho has already received two cars since becoming a national hero with his Olympic victory on home soil; three might have proved an embarrassment for a man who cannot actually drive.

Van Langen was hardly more experienced on the road than Kibet, having run just two previous races, but she surged, checked and then surged again over the last 100 metres to pass the Scottish runner, who had had a clear lead as she passed under the stone gaze of Sir Walter Scott at 250 metres.

Eamonn Coghlan, winner of the Past Masters' Mile in 4min 07sec, had prepared for the occasion in a manner which would set any self-respecting coach reeling away and smiting his brow.

The day before, he had plunged into the cold and murky River Liffey, along with a posse of other Irish well-knowns, in a sponsored swim for a Dublin hospital. Having hit the water at 1.30pm - 'I didn't like the oily taste' - he completed his crossing and scrambled into a car which took him to the airport, where he was booked on a 2.20 flight for Edinburgh.

Not a schedule to entice, say, Carl Lewis - but Coghlan works as a fund-raiser for children's medical research and has a special interest in such proceedings.