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The World Cross Country Championships run Saturday in Bathurst, Australia provided a dramatic stage for some of the best middle and long distance athletes of all time to gather. They came, they raced and they meted out their efforts to an exacting standard so to win or finish well and not of all things collapse. All except a handful did. At a roasting 36 Celcius or 96.8 Farenheight, it was arguably too hot for any type of race. Shades of Doha 2019.

Women’s senior race

Ethiopia’s Letesenbet Gidey, the world record holder in the 5000m, 10,000m and half-marathon was, of course, a favourite going in. One could argue, that she runs too tall for windy, gnarly, muddy cross-country racing, but the course varied in so many ways, she had moments of complete control. Gidey, sat on the lead pack the entire time. Lacking generosity, until the end, where she dropped her competitors, she gapped them — especially Beatrice Chebet — well and during the final 100 metres — lacking a true sprint — she was being gained on. But, she wanted the win badly. Chebet’s sprint was timely, and verocious. Gidey grimaced and looked back several times. She could feel her losing while having the lead. Just as Chebet passed her, down the 24-year-old went. Several runners passed her. She had no will to finish.

“I did not expect to win, but Gidey was slowing. I saw my chance and I decided to kick. I felt she didn’t have anymore. I knew she couldn’t threaten me. I knew I had the potential to go on and win. I was still feeling strong. I knew I could do it. This win gave me strength, courage and potential. I am thrilled to win. It was not easy. I won this race as a junior and now as a senior. It was a matter of endurance and believing in myself,” said Chebet after the race. 

Chebet of Kenya won the 10 kilometre race in the time of 33:48. Ethiopia’s Tsigie Gebreselama took silver eight seconds back. Kenyan Agnes Jebet Ngetich finished third another four seconds later. Gidey got up with the help of fellow Ethiopians — a no-no move. Officials disqualified her.

Gidey won the World Cross Country Championships in 2015 and 2017 in the U20 category. She finished in bronze medal position in Aarhus, Denmark in 2019. The two-time 10,000m world champion was looking to add a senior cross-country title to her resume. Even for the African, the heat was just too much.

Kenya won the team event, with Ethiopia second and Uganda for third. It was close with 16, 25 and 41 points, respectively. Host country Australia did well to finish fourth with 92 points. The US, UK, South Africa and Canada rounded out the top eight.

Men’s senior race

Toeing the line was approximately a dozen men, who, if in the prime of their fitness and preparation could be a contender for the win. It was a richly deep field perhaps never before seen. At the end of the gruelling, hilly and windy course, it was Uganda’s Jacob Kiplimo for the win in the time of 29:17.

Ethiopia’s Berihu Aregawi took second in 29:26, while pre-race favourite and defending champion Joshua Cheptegei of Uganda took third. It was anybody’s race.

Cheptegei made the first move during the final loop. By this time, a threatening storm was approaching and wind was howling around the athletes. The flagging was blowing horizontal. To the front, he went when he found an opening in a tight stretch and slipped in stealthily.

Then Kiplimo gunned it with 1500m remaining. The race was on or over — well, it was over for the winner.

Kiplimo hammered the rest of the race, spreading the field to a long single file train. Aregawi, the silver medallist at nine seconds back was, at this level, blown out the back. To have Geoffrey Kamworor take fourth and Kibiwott Kandie fifth just illustrates the depth of talent at this historic race. Selemon Berega, the Tokyo Olympic gold medallist in the 10,000m with a personal best of 26:44.73 speaks to the depth of talent considering the 23 year old crossed the finish line in 12th.

Sebastian Coe and World Athletics wanted tougher courses with character and they got that in Aarhus in 2019. The athletics world got it in spades in Bathurst, where organizers delivered on the promise of the toughest World Championships course ever. Only the 2020 Pan Am Cross Country Cup in Victoria, BC, Canada possibly proved to be tougher.

The team standings in the men’s race were also in the order of Kenya, Ethiopia and Uganda with 22, 33 and 37 points respectively. Again Australia performed very well taking fourth.

Mixed relays U20 results

In the mixed relay results it was again Kenya for the win, with Ethiopia and Australia taking second and third.

Women’s U20

1Senayet GETACHEWETH20:53
2Medina EISAETH21:00
3Pamela KOSGEIKEN21:01
5Lemlem NIBRETETH21:16
6Joyline CHEPKEMOIKEN21:17
7Meseret YESHANEHETH21:27
8Tinebeb ASRESETH21:32
10Ellie SHEAUSA21:48

Men’s U20

1Ishmael KIPKURUIKEN24:29
2Reynold Kipkorir CHERUIYOTKEN24:30
3Boki DIRIBAETH24:31
4Dan KIBETUGA24:36
5Bereket ZELEKEETH24:51
6Keneth KIPROPUGA24:52
7Abel BEKELEETH24:52
8Bereket NEGAETH25:10
9Dennis MUTUKUKEN25:13
10Daniel KINYANJUIKEN25:17

Full results available here.