Athletics: Tergat leads clean sweep by Kenyans

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The Independent Online


The "little bit of magic" for which the British men's team captain, Dave Clarke, had been hoping at Saturday's World Cross-country Championships failed to materialise.

But as Kenya brought off another clean sweep of team titles in Stellenbosch - with Paul Tergat defending his individual title against Ethiopia's multiple world record holder, Haile Gebrselassie - Britain managed a respectable fifth place in the men's team event.

John Brown, winner of the prestigious Gasparilla 15k road race in Florida earlier this month, was the first Briton - and European - home in 12th place.

Although only one colleague, the 28th-placed John Nuttall, finished inside the top 40, good grouping from the other four counting scorers - Rob Denmark (45th), Andrew Pearson (51st), trial winner Keith Cullen (57th) and newcomer Darius Burrows (59th) - saw the team finish one place below the leading Europeans, Spain.

Denmark's showing justified the selectors' decision to give him a discretionary place after he finished outside the qualifying places at the trial.

As expected, injury and illness took the edge off Paula Radcliffe, Britain's world junior champion of 1992. She finished in 19th, six places behind Ireland's silver medallist of last year, Catherina McKiernan, and the women's team were 11th overall.

Tergat, who won this event in Durham last year, had approached this race with insouciance - "defending the world championships is a foregone conclusion" - but he benefited from a stumble by Gebrselassie as he seemed poised to strike. After catching his leading leg on a log hurdle on the final lap, the 5,000 and 10,000m world record holder had to fight to keep his balance and Tergat burst to the front.

Tergat finished 12 seconds clear of Morocco's Sala Hissou with Ismael Kirui of Kenya a further second back in third place. He is now in pursuit of the record of five world titles achieved by his compatriot, John Ngugi.

Kenya underlined their superiority with six athletes in the top 10 and were unchallenged in the day's four team competitions. They have won 31 out of 32 team events in the last eight years.

In the women's race, Ethiopia's Gete Wami finished 600 metres clear after her training partner, the defending champion Derartu Tulu, had lost a shoe jostling with Kenyan rivals.