Athletics: Tergat on target for new mark

TWELVE KILOMETRES of mud and turf at Belfast's Barnett Demesne stand between Paul Tergat and a place in the World Cross-Country Championship record book.

If the 29-year-old Kenyan can retain his title in Northern Ireland tomorrow he will equal the record set by his compatriot John Ngugi and extend the extraordinary domination of this event by his country.

Kenya have won the men's team title every year and, but for victories by Khalid Skah, of Morocco, in 1990 and 1991, have also held the individual title in that time. It was enough to make even the great Ethiopian Haile Gebrselassie give up the challenge. After finishing third in 1994 and fifth two years later, he decided to concentrate on the track - where things have gone tolerably well for him.

Ethiopian hopes now rest on the slim shoulders of a 17-year-old, Milion Wolde, who last month paced Gebrselassie to the latest of his world records, over 5,000m, at Birmingham's National Indoor Arena.

Wolde is far more than a pacemaker, however. World junior champion at cross-country and 5,000m last year, he showed his potential in senior cross-country racing by winning the Durham International event on 2 January, beating a field which included Kenya's highly-rated Thomas Nyariki and Britain's Jon Brown, the 1996 European champion.

Brown, 12th and 14th in the last two years, is seeking to break into the top 10 this time around, with the additional target of being the first European home. But the struggles of Brown, and team-mates such as the trials winner Glyn Tromans, will be a side-show to the main event tomorrow as Kenya and Ethiopia fight out a familiar battle.

Tergat, who briefly held the 10,000m world record in 1997, is believed to be back in top form after pulling out of a race in Italy on 14 March to protect what was described as a slight muscle strain. Among those looking for any sign of weakness, apart from Wolde, will be team-mates Nyariki and Paul Koech, and Salah Hissou, of Morocco, who finished runner-up to Tergat in 1996 and 1997.

The field in each event has been lessened by the reduction of team numbers from nine to six. But this has been balanced by last year's introduction of additional, shorter races of 4.2km for men and women.

Ireland's Sonia O'Sullivan, winner of both short and long races at last year's championships in Marrakesh, has withdrawn because she is pregnant. That appears to leave the field clear in the 4.2km event for last year's runner-up, Zhara Ouaziz, of Morocco, while the longer race - over 8km today - offers Paula Radcliffe an outstanding chance to improve upon the two silver medals she has won in the past two years.

It will be the fifth time these championships have been hosted by Britain since they began in their current form in 1973, but the choice of Belfast has been invested with understandable significance. According to the IAAF president, Primo Nebiolo, it was "a way of showing the world athletic family's support of the initiatives which culminated in last year's historic peace agreement."

n The Yugoslavian team, which included the women's European bronze medallist, Oliveira Jevtic, have withdrawn from the event due to the military conflict in the southern Balkans.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
tech
Arts and Entertainment
Rocky road: Dwayne Johnson and Carla Gugino play an estranged husband and wife in 'San Andreas'
filmReview: In the face of all-round devastation, even Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson appears a little puny
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Bright lights, big city: Melrose Avenue in Los Angeles by dusk
books
Sport
Harry Kane makes Paul Scholes' Premier League team of the season
footballPaul Scholes on the best players, managers and goals of the season - and the biggest disappointments
News
i100
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Web Developer - Junior / Middleweight

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: One of the South East's fastest growing full s...

Guru Careers: Marketing Manager / Marketing Communications Manager

£35-40k (DOE) + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Marketing Communicati...

Recruitment Genius: Commercial Engineer

£30000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Estimating, preparation of tech...

Recruitment Genius: IT Support Technician

£14000 - £17000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: You will work as part of a smal...

Day In a Page

Fifa corruption: The 161-page dossier that exposes the organisation's dark heart

The 161-page dossier that exposes Fifa's dark heart

How did a group of corrupt officials turn football’s governing body into what was, in essence, a criminal enterprise? Chris Green and David Connett reveal all
Mediterranean migrant crisis: 'If Europe thinks bombing boats will stop smuggling, it will not. We will defend ourselves,' says Tripoli PM

Exclusive interview with Tripoli PM Khalifa al-Ghweil

'If Europe thinks bombing boats will stop smuggling, it will not. We will defend ourselves'
Raymond Chandler's Los Angeles: How the author foretold the Californian water crisis

Raymond Chandler's Los Angeles

How the author foretold the Californian water crisis
Chinese artist who posted funny image of President Xi Jinping facing five years in prison as authorities crackdown on dissent in the arts

Art attack

Chinese artist who posted funny image of President Xi Jinping facing five years in prison
Marc Jacobs is putting Cher in the limelight as the face of his latest campaign

Cher is the new face of Marc Jacobs

Alexander Fury explains why designers are turning to august stars to front their lines
Parents of six-year-old who beat leukaemia plan to climb Ben Nevis for cancer charity

'I'm climbing Ben Nevis for my daughter'

Karen Attwood's young daughter Yasmin beat cancer. Now her family is about to take on a new challenge - scaling Ben Nevis to help other children
10 best wedding gift ideas

It's that time of year again... 10 best wedding gift ideas

Forget that fancy toaster, we've gone off-list to find memorable gifts that will last a lifetime
Paul Scholes column: With the Premier League over for another year, here are my end of season awards

Paul Scholes column

With the Premier League over for another year, here are my end of season awards
Heysel disaster 30th anniversary: Liverpool have seen too much tragedy to forget fateful day in Belgium

Liverpool have seen too much tragedy to forget Heysel

Thirty years ago, 39 fans waiting to watch a European Cup final died as a result of a fatal cocktail of circumstances. Ian Herbert looks at how a club dealt with this tragedy
Amir Khan vs Chris Algieri: Khan’s audition for Floyd Mayweather may turn into a no-win situation, says Frank Warren

Khan’s audition for Mayweather may turn into a no-win situation

The Bolton fighter could be damned if he dazzles and damned if he doesn’t against Algieri, the man last seen being decked six times by Pacquiao, says Frank Warren
Blundering Tony Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

Blundering Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

For Arabs – and for Britons who lost their loved ones in his shambolic war in Iraq – his appointment was an insult, says Robert Fisk
Fifa corruption arrests: All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue

Fifa corruption arrests

All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue, says Ian Herbert
Isis in Syria: The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of President Assad and militant fighters

The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of Assad and Isis

In Syrian Kurdish cantons along the Turkish border, the progressive aims of the 2011 uprising are being enacted despite the war. Patrick Cockburn returns to Amuda
How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields: Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape the US

How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields

Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape to the US
Stephen Mangan interview: From posh buffoon to pregnant dad, the actor has quite a range

How Stephen Mangan got his range

Posh buffoon, hapless writer, pregnant dad - Mangan is certainly a versatile actor