Compact Ethiopia Dethrone Kenya From World Cross Mixed Relay Crown

Mar 30 - by IAAF for SportPesa News

Rivals however, upgraded to silver after Morocco are disqualified in the opening event of Aarhus 2019 showdown in Denmark

Fantu Worku anchors Ethiopia to gold in the mixed relay at the IAAF/Mikkeller World Cross Country Championships Aarhus 2019. PHOTO/IAAF

  • Steeplechase specialists Kipruto of Kenya and Soufiane El Bakkali of Morocco were the standout names on the first leg. But El Bakkali, the world steeplechase silver medallist, could not match his arch rival on the twists, turns and hills on the 2.1km loop and started to lose contact after he first few minutes
  • Having covered his stage in 6:01, Endale handed over to compatriot Bone Cheluke with a three-second lead over Kenya, who had Mwasya on their second leg
  • Her move was a decisive one and she seemed untroubled by the incline and decline of the Moesgaard Museum. It was a different story for Mbithe, however, who was caught by Morocco’s world and Olympic 1500m finalist Rababe Arafi

AARHUS, Denmark- Ethiopia drew first blood in their eternal battle against Kenya when they wrestled the Mixed Relay title from their distance running arch rivals in the opening race of the Aarhus 2019 IAAF/Mikkeler World Cross in Denmark on Saturday afternoon.

The Ethiopians who were beaten to silver in Kampala 2017 turned it into gold in the most emphatic fashion with Fantu Worku delivering the crown when she sprinted away from Winfred Mbithe, a winner at the last edition in fine style.

Initially, Morocco were awarded the silver but Kenya got the upgrade when the former were disqualified.

Olympic and world men 3000m steeplechase champion, Conseslus Kipruto, world 1500m champion, Elijah Manangoi  Mbithe and Jarinter Mwasya completed the Kenyan quartet that were humbled on the day.

For the first three legs, Ethiopia and Kenya had been locked in a neck-and-neck battle with Morocco sitting in a distant third place. But everything changed on the final leg.

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Steeplechase specialists Kipruto of Kenya and Soufiane El Bakkali of Morocco were the standout names on the first leg. But El Bakkali, the world steeplechase silver medallist, could not match his arch rival on the twists, turns and hills on the 2.1km loop and started to lose contact after he first few minutes.

But just at the point when many expected Kipruto to make his move, it was little-known Ethiopian Kebede Endale who forged ahead, charging up the roof of the Moesgaard Museum to open a gap on the world and Olympic steeplechase champion.

Having covered his stage in 6:01, Endale handed over to compatriot Bone Cheluke with a three-second lead over Kenya, who had Mwasya on their second leg.

Cheluke, who ran in the mixed relay in Kampala two years ago, maintained her team’s advantage over Kenya after covering her 2km leg in 6:47. 

USA’s Shannon Osika, a 4:06.17 1500m runner, overtook Morocco’s second-leg runner, Kaoutar Farkoussi, and briefly joined Cheluke and Mwasya at the front.

She was unable to maintain that pace, though, and faded in the closing stages of her leg and handed over in fourth place overall behind Morocco.

Bone Cheluke of Ethiopia in action in the mixed relay at the IAAF/Mikkeller World Cross Country Championships Aarhus 2019. PHOTO/IAAF

Comfortable lead

World and Commonwealth 1500m champion Manangoi took up the running for Kenya on the third leg, while 2012 world indoor 1500m champion Abdelaati Iguider carried Morocco’s hopes of gaining on Ethiopian leader, 2017 African U18 800m silver medallist Teddese Lemi.

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Iguider managed to make up a bit of ground during the first half of his 2km leg, but Lemi and Manangoi still had a comfortable lead.

Having expended perhaps a bit too much energy, Iguider then faded slightly towards the end of his stage. Up in front, Lemi maintained Ethiopia’s lead and handed over to 2016 world U20 1500m silver medallist Worku with a two-second advantage over Winfred Mbithe.

As their teammates had done on the first three stages, Worku and Mbithe ran close together for much of the final 2.14km leg. But with 23 minutes on the clock, Worku started to pull ahead to finally create some distance between Ethiopia and Kenya.

Her move was a decisive one and she seemed untroubled by the incline and decline of the Moesgaard Museum. It was a different story for Mbithe, however, who was caught by Morocco’s world and Olympic 1500m finalist Rababe Arafi.

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As she turned the bend coming off the roof and negotiated the final turn into the home straight, Worku forged ahead to give Ethiopia the gold in 25:49. Way behind, Arafi was next to cross the finish line in 26:22 with Kenya following in 26:29.

Little more than an hour later, however, Morocco was disqualified for handing over the timing wristband before the start of the exchange zone. It meant Kenya moved up to second and USA, clocking 27:01, took bronze.

“It was a very hard course, and especially the roof was a challenge,” said Worku.

“But I was very happy for the downhill parts, and it was good we had tested the route before the race. After last year's silver medal, we went home to train hard, and we are very proud to claim the gold today.”

Elijah Manangoi and Taddese Lemi in the mixed relay at the IAAF/Mikkeller World Cross Country Championships Aarhus 2019. PHOTO/IAAF

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-Report by Jon Mulkeen for the IAAF

UPDATED LEADING RESULTS

1 Ethiopia

1. Kebede ENDALE

2. Bone CHELUKE

3. Teddese LEMI

4. Fantu WORKU

25:49

2 Kenya

1. Conseslus KIPRUTO

2. Jarinter Mawia MWASYA

3. Elijah Motonei MANANGOI

4. Winfred Nzisa MBITHE

26:29

3 United States

1. Kirubel ERASSA

2. Shannon OSIKA

3. Jordan MANN

4. Eleanor FULTON

27:01

4 Uganda

1. Docus AJOK

2. Daniel KIPROP

3. Sylvia CHELANGAT

4. Ronald MUSAGALA

27:35

5 Spain

1. Víctor RUIZ

2. Cristina ESPEJO

3. Artur BOSSY

4. Esther GUERRERO

27:47