Cross-Country: Kenyans pick their winners: Team plan carries the day in the World Championships

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THE KENYANS swept the board at yesterday's World Cross-Country Championships in all but the senior women's race. It came as no surprise to them: such is their domination of the event that team-plans now concern not just how the Kenyans should win, but which Kenyans should win.

William Sigei's victory in the men's senior event, which was led for all but the finishing straight by his team- mates Dominic and Ismail Kirui, was worked out to the last detail. It followed the junior men's and women's races in which Kenyans filled the first four places and Kenya even took the team title in the senior women's race, in which Portugal's Albertina Dias beat Catherina McKiernan of Ireland to the gold and Liz McColgan was Britain's highest finisher in fifth.

But it was the calculated nature of their victory in the last event of the afternoon that best demonstrated their supremacy. 'In the last 500 metres I slowed my speed so that Sigei could come through,' Dominic Kirui said. 'In our training before the race, when we were doing speed work, we saw that Sigei was just better. It was decided that Ismail and I would make good pacemakers for him.'

The man who laid the plans, Kenya's national coach, Mike Kosgei, beamed with pride afterwards. 'Sigei was our darling in the race,' he said. 'When he was running on his own in third place, I told him to stay there. We didn't want anybody to jostle or spike him.'

Thus Sigei, who had won his national trial and is unbeaten on the World Cross Challenge circuit this season, remained between the two leaders and a pack of six which included Khalid Skah, the Moroccan who had disrupted Kenya's run of individual victories in the event by winning in 1990 and 1991.

How the Kenyans rejoiced in the defeat of their bete noire. They had been annoyed by his cockiness in victory, and last summer annoyance turned to rage when Skah was reinstated as Olympic 10,000m champion in place of their own Richard Chelimo, who, they felt, was baulked over the last three laps by Hammou Boutayeb, a team-mate of Skah's.

The bronze medallist, Ismail Kirui, took particular pleasure in seeing Skah finish behind five Kenyans, as he is one of Chelimo's brothers. But it was Dominic Kirui who voiced Kenyan satisfaction. 'We are just avenging what Skah did in Barcelona,' he said, before referring to Skah's reported statements that he would use the Kenyans as pacemakers.

Skah did appear chastened afterwards, although he blamed a recent dispute with his home federation for affecting his mental preparation. Kosgei's planning has now frustrated him twice - in the 1991 world championship 10,000m final the Kenyan coach detailed a runner to stay with the Moroccan while two team-mates, Moses Tanui and Chelimo, pushed on to win gold and silver.

The women's race was diminished by the withdrawal of the Olympic 10,000m champion, Derartu Tulu, half-way through the 6,350m race after she aggravated an injury to her right knee. But the remaining field was still immensely strong, and a determined opening surge from South Africa's Zola Pieterse, who as Zola Budd won this title for Britain in 1985 and 1986, ensured that the race was very fast - the bronze medallist, Lynn Jennings, who had been seeking a fourth consecutive title, described it as the fastest cross-country race she had ever been in.

It proved a little too speedy for McColgan, who is in training for the London Marathon, but she moved steadily up the field from around 30th place, just passing Budd's colleague Elana Meyer, another early leader, on the line. 'I'm disappointed,' she said. 'But to be realistic, these girls have trained for this race.'

Paula Radcliffe, who won the world junior title for Britain in the snow of Boston last year, stuck boldly with the leaders from the start and hung on to 18th place. 'I've never run so fast for so long,' she said. 'But at least I gave myself a chance. Hopefully, I can stay up there longer next year.'

McKiernan hung on gamely to Dias to the end, and believed briefly that she might have improved on the second place she earned last year. Her disappointment was tempered by dollars 10,000 ( pounds 6,500) - her reward for finishing first in the World Cross Challenge series, which climaxed in these championships.

WORLD CROSS-COUNTRY CHAMPIONSHIPS (Amorebieta, Sp): Men (11.75km) 1 W Sigei (Ken) 32min 51sec; 2 D Kirui (Ken) 32:56; 3 I Kirui (Ken) 32:59; 4 M Tanui (Ken) 33:14; 5 E Bitok (Ken) 33:21; 6 K Skah (Mor) 33:22; 7 H Gebreselasie (Eth) 33:23; 8 A Abebe (Eth) 33:29; 9 W Bikila (Eth) 33:31; 10 P Tergat (Ken) 33:35. Teams: 1 Kenya 25pts; 2 Ethiopia 82; 3 Portugal 167; 4 Spain 187; 7 Britain 353. Women (6,350m): 1 A Dias (Por) 20:00; 2 C McKiernan (Irl) 20:09; 3 L Jennings (US) 20:09; 4 Z Pieterse (SA) 20:10; 5 L McColgan (GB) 20:17; 6 E Meyer (SA) 20:18; 7 P Konga (Ken) 20:19; 8 F Fates (Fr) 20:20; 9 I Negura (Rom) 20:20; 10 K Kanbayashi (Japan) 20:23. GB: 18 P Radcliffe (GB) 20:34. Teams: 1 Kenya 52; 2 Japan 93; 3 France 100; 4 South Africa 105; 7 Britain 124. Junior men (7,150m): 1 P Mosima (Ken) 20:18sec; 2 C Kosgei (Ken) 20:20; 3 J Machuka (Ken) 20:23; 4 L Nyakeraka (Ken) 20:23; 5 T Abebe (Eth) 20:28; 6 H Jifar (Eth) 20:50; 7 T Reta (Eth) 20:50; 8 S Kimutai (Ken) 21:03; 9 G Tsega (Eth) 21:04; 10 T Gebre (Eth) 21:05. Teams: 1 Kenya 10; 2 Ethiopia 27; 3 Morocco 76; 4 Spain 114. Junior women (4,450m): 1 G Ondeyo (Ken) 14:04; 2 P Chepchumba (Ken) 14:09; 3 S Barsosio (Ken) 14:11; 4 H Mutai (Ken) 14:14; 5 S Power (Aus) 14:18; 6 C Kirui (Ken) 14:29; 7 E Cosoveanu (Rom) 14:32; 8 A Kato (Japan) 14:34; 9 A Miyazaki (Japan) 14:36; 10 S Nakahito (Japan) 14:40. Teams: 1 Kenya 10; 2 Japan 41; 3 Ethiopia 61; 4 Romania 95; 9 Britain 164.