Dibaba wins, Bekele beaten, Stevenson shines and Twell back at her best

BUPA Great Winter Run

Stephanie Twell struggled at last month's European Championships but she bounced back to her best form when finishing fifth at this afternoon's Bupa Great Edinburgh International Cross Country.
Twell may have not matched the awesome performance of Tirunesh Dibaba, the Olympic 5000 and 10000m champion, who over the final lap of the freezing 5.8 kilometres course, roasted her opponents to score an easy victory in 21 minutes 37 seconds.

But Twell and veteran Hayley Yelling-Higham, a place in front of her sharing the same time of 21min 51sec, made Vivian Cheruiyot and Kalkidan Gezahegn fight every inch of the way before the Kenyan and Ethiopian snatched second and third.

It was a spirited display from the British pair particularly Yelling-Higham just a month after winning the European Cross Country crown for a second time only a few weeks after coming out of retirement.

However most eyes were on Twell particularly from a supportive crowd who were casting eyes on the world junior 1500m gold medallist for the first time since switching nationality from England to across the border last July.

While Ethiopia's Dibaba, regaining the title she clinched at the inaugural meeting six years ago, was in a class of her own, the race for second spot was always wide open.

The 20-year-old Aldershot athlete didn't disappoint them as she mixed it gamely with Dibaba, Cheruiyot winner of last summer's world 5000m title and Gezahegn who took silver when she won her global 1500m crown in 2008.

The host nation's stars gave it their very best shot trying to disrupt the race tempo, but ultimately the finishing speed of Cheruiyot and Gezahegn proved decisive in a thrilling last 400m.

Twell, whose track aspirations last summer were jolted when failing to progress past her heat at the World Championships, was also a disappointment when placing a disappointing 11th at the European Cross in Dublin.

However the London 2012 Olympic Games medal prospect, believes after finally seeing her training going in the right direction, that her career is back on track towards that task.

"In Berlin I was ill and I missed some training because of the pressure of university exams and that's why I wasn't at my best in Dublin," said Twell who is studying strength and conditioning at Mary's College in west London.

"However over Christmas I got in plenty of hard training and also plenty of sleep and rest which was what I needed.

"I knew it was going to be a hard race and I love to run against this sort of opposition. At one point along with Hayley, we tried to push it to hurt the Africans although we didn't pre-plan it.

The three-time European junior champion, added: "I've never raced her before but hopefully she'll know who I am now."

While Dibaba's running on snow for the first time saw her reputation remain supreme, her even more high profile teammate Kenenisa Bekele saw his awesome credentials take a major denting.

The world's greatest-ever cross country runner was in fairness running over the terrain for the first time since scoring a sixth World Championships victory at the Holyrood Park venue in March 2008.

"I got killed by three Kenyan's," said Bekele after his northerly rivals Joseph Ebuya, Titus Mbishei and Eliud Kipchoge scored a heralded if unexpected clean sweep in the 9km race.

Bekele admitted he had undertaken some positive training sessions before coming to the Scottish capital via London where last Thursday he visited the Olympic Park in east London.

"I normally would only arrive a day before so I missed a couple of training sessions," added Beleke who apart from failing to finish at the 2007 World Championships had only once before suffered a cross country defeat.

Chris Thompson was the first Briton home finishing seventh in 29min 52sec, a huge distance behind Ebuya who savoured his milestone success in 28min 41sec.

Mo Farah paid the price for going off too quickly in the domestic 4km when after opening what looked like being a winning lead, he fell to the swords of Ricky Stevenson and Steve Vernon.

Stevenson 21, the last Briton to run a sub four minute mile and Vernon runner-up 12 months ago, roped in the former EuroCross champion who was struggling from his early exertions, on the final circuit.

Farah tried desperately to stay in contact but faded when his opponents put in another testing surge before Stevenson scoring the biggest win of his career, outpaced Vernon by three seconds to win in 13min 20sec.

Farah, keeping his chin up before going to Kenya for an altitude camp on Tuesday, said: "I went off too hard and at the end I had nothing left.

"I've got to put this to the back of my mind and come back positive. I promise you, I'll come back stronger."

Results

Men
4km (All GB)
1, R Stevenson 13:20
2, S Vernon 13:23
3, M Farah 13:28
4, T Lancashire 13:43
5, M Goose 13:45
6, M Draper 13:47
7, A Baddeley 13:54
8, R Russell 14:08
9, B Raeside 14:11
10, M Barnes 14:14

9km
1, J Ebuya (Kenya) 28:41
2, T Mbishei (Kenya) 28:43
3, E Kipchoge (Kenya) 29:04
4, K Bekele (Ethiopia) 29:17
5, J-L Barrios (Mexico) 29:25
6, S Lebid (Ukraine) 29:51
7, C Thompson (GB) 29:52
8, M Skinner (GB) 30:01
9, R McLeod (GB) 30:19
10, L Merrien (GB) 30:22

Women
6km
1, T Dibaba (Ethiopia) 21:37
2, V Cheruiyot (Kenya) 21:47
3, K Gezahegn (Ethiopia) 21:48
4, H Yelling-Higham (GB) 21:51
5, S Twell (GB) 21:51
6, M Chemos (Kenya) 21:51
7, J Sparke (GB) 22:02
8, F Murray (GB) 22:19
9, J Augusto (Portugal) 22:54
10, L Deadman (GB) 22:568

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