Paula Radcliffe received an unexpected, but apparently welcome, 29th birthday present yesterday when the double Olympic 10,000 metres champion, Derartu Tulu, confirmed that she will face her British rival in Newcastle next month.
The addition of Tulu to the Great North Cross Country field promises another fascinating Tyneside confrontation between the reigning World 10,000m champion and Radcliffe.
With the Ethiopian Gete Wami also lining-up in the six-kilometre race on 4 January, Radcliffe will begin her new year against two of her toughest rivals for her top target next summer of the world 10,000m crown.
Peter Elliott, the race director and the former Commonwealth 1,500m champion, believes that although it is still very early in the cross-country season, personal pride will produce a world-class race.
"Paula doesn't believe in easy races at this level and will be looking forward to the clash," Elliott said. "The tougher the opposition the more she responds. Likewise both Tulu and Wami are made of the same steely qualities. They'll be up for it."
Meanwhile, Sammy Kipketer, the Commonwealth 5,000m gold medallist, has been added to the men's 9km field. The gifted 20-year-old Kenyan faces race winners for the last two years – his fellow countryman Paul Kosgei and Kenenisa Bekele from Ethiopia.
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