Athletics: Great prospect sweeps the Great North

Kenyans can only watch the heels of 20-year-old Ethiopian

Exhibition Park was constructed, on the edge of Newcastle's Town Moor, to mark the Golden Jubilee of Queen Victoria. The View From Great North Cross Country meeting held within its grounds yesterday was built around the appearance of the woman who became the queen of distance running in 2002. Sadly, Paula Radcliffe could not attend the first engagement of her post-coronation year. A bacterial infection kept the marathon world record holder away from the mud and snow of Tyneside. In her absence, it was the young man who would be king of the male distance running world who stole the new year show.

It took Radcliffe nine years to make the transition from junior to senior World Cross Country Champion, winning the long-course title in Ostend in 2001. Kenenisa Bekele – Kenny to his friends – made it in 12 months. He made it a double, too, taking the senior short-course and long-course titles in his smooth thoroughbred stride at Leopardstown Racecourse on the outskirts of Dublin last year, a year after having won the junior race in Ostend. Radcliffe was a senior world champion at 27, Bekele at 19. The Ethiopian is 20 now and, judging by his imperious form yesterday, his heralding as "the next Haile Gebrselassie" might not be inflated by premature hyperbole.

He turned the showpiece men's 8.8km race into an exhibition in the park, making light of the heavy conditions and the high-class opposition. It was a measure of his performance that his principal rivals – Kenyans Sammy Kipketer, the Commonwealth 5,000m champion, and Paul Kosgei, the world half marathon champion – managed to stay in his slipstream for just two of the seven strength-sapping circuits. Bekele crossed the line looking as comfortable as he did at the start, finishing 15 seconds clear of Kipketer in 29min 12sec. Kosgei was a further eight seconds behind in third place.

Back home, on the roads of Addis Ababa, Bekele is taking driving lessons. On the international running circuit, he has long dispensed with the L-plates. "The conditions were no problem to me," he said. "It is not the first time I have run in snow. I am happy that I have won by such a big margin. It felt easy. I could have continued at the finish."

It was Bekele's third impressive win in three attempts on the European cross country circuit this winter, following equally emphatic successes at Oeiras in Portugal in November and in Brussels last month. He has not been beaten in a cross country race for 13 months, since he finished runner-up to Gebrselassie in Lefrinckoucke, France. He does have an Achilles' heel, though. An injury in that physical department kept him out for four months of the track season last summer. This year, after defending his long-course title at the World Cross Country Championships in Lausanne in March, his major aim is to make his mark on the track.

"I want to run the 5,000m or the 10,000m at the world championships in Paris," he said. "I will run one or the other, not both." Gebrselassie, for one, will await Bekele's decision with interest. The 29-year-old is back in action, and in form after suffering a calf injury in the London Marathon last April. Indeed, he looked a million dollars when he ran in a 10km road race in Doha last month, pocketing that six figure sum for breaking Kipketer's world best road time for the distance, with a time of 27min 02sec. Gebrselassie's main target for 2003 is to challenge for a fifth successive 10,000m world title in Paris.

Bekele happens to share the same manager as Gebrselassie, Jos Hermens, the Dutchman who has held the world best track time for 10 miles since 1975. He also comes from Arsi, the same region of Ethiopia as Gebrselassie, and trains twice a week with the multi-world record holder in Addis Ababa, where they both have homes. In fact, he has no greater admirer than the man known in Ethiopia as 'the Emperor'. "He can beat my 5,000m and 10,000m world records," Gebrselassie has said of his fast-emerging countryman.

It has taken Rob Whalley rather longer to emerge as a winner in Britain's premier cross country meeting. Ten years ago he finished second in the 4.1km short-course race. Yesterday, at the age of 34, the City of Stoke athlete was a clear winner. "I'm having hypnotherapy to cure my asthma," he said. "It has been a problem for me in the past, particularly in the summer, but now I can control it, rather than let it control me." Whalley's controlled run from gun to tape yesterday provided the only home win of the day.

The women's 6.8km race was won by Edith Masai, the Kenyan prison warder who took the Commonwealth 5,000m silver medal in Manchester last summer – 22.34sec behind a majestic Paula Radcliffe.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
tech

Board creates magnetic field to achieve lift

News
There have been various incidents of social media users inadvertently flouting the law
news

Life and Style
Stack ‘em high?: quantity doesn’t always trump quality, as Friends of the Earth can testify
techThe proliferation of online petitions allows us to register our protests at the touch of a button. But do they change anything?
News
Bourgogne wine maker Laboure-Roi vice president Thibault Garin (L) offers the company's 2013 Beaujolais Nouveau wine to the guest in the wine spa at the Hakone Yunessun spa resort facilities in Hakone town, Kanagawa prefecture, some 100-kilometre west of Tokyo
i100
Sport
CSKA Moscow celebrate after equalising with a late penalty
footballCSKA Moscow 2 Manchester City 2: Premier League champions let two goal lead slip in Russia
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

**Primary Teachers Needed Urgently in Southport**

£80 - £120 per day: Randstad Education Liverpool: **Due to an increase in dema...

SEN Teaching Assistant Runcorn

£50 per day: Randstad Education Cheshire: SEN Teaching Assistant EBD , Septemb...

Nursery Assistant/Nurse all cheshire areas

£7 per hour: Randstad Education Cheshire: We are a large and successful recrui...

SEN Teaching Assistant

£50 per day: Randstad Education Cheshire: SEN Teaching Assistant We are curr...

Day In a Page

Indiana serial killer? Man arrested for murdering teenage prostitute confesses to six other murders - and police fear there could be many more

A new American serial killer?

Police fear man arrested for murder of teen prostitute could be responsible for killing spree dating back 20 years
Sweetie, the fake 10-year-old girl designed to catch online predators, claims her first scalp

Sting to trap paedophiles may not carry weight in UK courts

Computer image of ‘Sweetie’ represented entrapment, experts say
Fukushima nuclear crisis: Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on - and may never return home

Return to Fukushima – a land they will never call home again

Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on from nuclear disaster
Wildlife Photographer of the Year: Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize

Wildlife Photographer of the Year

Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize
Online petitions: Sign here to change the world

Want to change the world? Just sign here

The proliferation of online petitions allows us to register our protests at the touch of a button. But do they change anything?
Ed Sheeran hits back after being labelled too boring to headline festivals

'You need me, I don’t need you'

Ed Sheeran hits back after being labelled too boring to headline festivals
How to Get Away with Murder: Shonda Rhimes reinvents the legal drama

How to Get Away with Murder

Shonda Rhimes reinvents the legal drama
A cup of tea is every worker's right

Hard to swallow

Three hospitals in Leicester have banned their staff from drinking tea and coffee in public areas. Christopher Hirst explains why he thinks that a cuppa is every worker's right
Which animals are nearly extinct?

Which animals are nearly extinct?

Conservationists in Kenya are in mourning after the death of a white northern rhino, which has left the species with a single male. These are the other species on the brink
12 best children's shoes

Perfect for leaf-kicking: 12 best children's shoes

Find footwear perfect to keep kids' feet protected this autumn
Anderlecht vs Arsenal: Gunners' ray of light Aaron Ramsey shines again

Arsenal’s ray of light ready to shine again

Aaron Ramsey’s injury record has prompted a club investigation. For now, the midfielder is just happy to be fit to face Anderlecht in the Champions League
Comment: David Moyes' show of sensitivity thrown back in his face by former Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson

Moyes’ show of sensitivity thrown back in his face... by Ferguson

Manchester United legend tramples on successor who resisted criticising his inheritance
Two super-sized ships have cruised into British waters, but how big can these behemoths get?

Super-sized ships: How big can they get?

Two of the largest vessels in the world cruised into UK waters last week
British doctors on brink of 'cure' for paralysis with spinal cord treatment

British doctors on brink of cure for paralysis

Sufferers can now be offered the possibility of cure thanks to a revolutionary implant of regenerative cells
Ranked seventh in world’s best tourist cities - not London, or Edinburgh, but Salisbury

Lonely Planet’s Best in Travel 2015

UK city beats Vienna, Paris and New York to be ranked seventh in world’s best tourist destinations - but it's not London