Sunday, February 21, 2010

Paul who?


Was the question on everyone’s lips after unheralded Paul Tanui obliterated an assembly of champions to emerge the biggest winner at the KCB/AK National Cross Country Championships.

Reigning world 10,000m champion and World Cross silver medallist, Linet Masai, was peerless in the 8km, delivering a master class that humbled her rivals.

World junior 1,500m women’s gold medallist, Nelly Chebet and Charles Kibet who was 13th in Amman last year secured victory in the junior women and men races.

Tanui, fourth in the junior 8km race last year in Amman, arrived in the senior ranks with a breathtaking victory after unshackling himself from the leading pack with 8km done.

"I was not expecting this. My plan was to keep close to the leaders so that when they break, I would be with them. But when I went in front and realised no one was following, I pushed on to increase the gap," Tanui, who clocked 35:12.5 for victory, told reporters.

Lucas Rotich, a junior bronze medallist at the 2008 Edinburgh World Cross, accepted the bridesmaid role in 25:42.7, a staggering 500m behind the winner.

Joseph Ebuya (35:44.8), who thumped six-time World Cross senior champion Kenenisa Bekele in Edinburgh last month sealed the podium. Pre-race favourite, Leonard Komon (silver 2008/fourth last year) was felled in the first lap and trailed all runners when he dusted himself to rejoin the race. But in an exhibition of the fighting spirit that has elevated him as a fine cross country runner, Komon powered up the field to finish fifth (35:46.2).

In the women’s 8km, the winning margin was just as huge but no surprises were in store when Masai engaged the high gear with 5km gone. In the end, she returned 26:43.0 and such was her dominance that runner-up Lineth Chepkurui (27:03.5/fourth Amman) came in 20 seconds later!

"I hope this is my year for gold and it can happen though it will not be easy," the 2007 junior World Cross champion and senior bronze winner a year later said. Margaret Wangari (27:08.5) sealed the podium.

With world junior 3,000m champion, Mercy Cherono, struggling for fitness, fellow Bydgoszcz gold medallist (1,500m) Nelly Chebet broke away with 800m to go for victory in the women 6km race in 20:12.7. Purity Cherotich (20:13.6) and Faith Chepngetich (20:25.6) completed the top three with Cherono (20:21.6) fourth.

Charles Chebet (23:38.0) took charge of the men’s junior race at the 6km and romped home ahead of Paul Mutero (23:40.8) and Caleb Mwangangi (23:42.4).