BATHURST, Australia (AP) — Lightning cracked as Jacob Kiplimo was finishing off his win in the cross-country world championships, waving his arms to celebrate as he strode the last steps of a downhill run to the line that had claimed a major casualty in the women’s race earlier Saturday.
Letesenbet Gidey was leading the women’s race on the same stretch of grass when she turned her head slightly to get a glimpse at fast-finishing Beatrice Chebet, tripped on a mound and stumbled to the ground as the 22-year-old Kenyan ran past her for a memorable win.
Chebet won in the 10-kilometer race in 33 minutes and 48 seconds and, making matters worse for Gidey as she sat on the ground, her back to the finish, Tsigie Gebreselama took second place in 33:56 and Agnes Jebet Ngetich finished third in 34:00.
Gidey, helped off the ground by a man carrying an Ethiopian flag who was quickly waved off the course by a team official, crossed the finish line in fourth place but was later disqualified.
“I didn’t expect to win, but I hung in,” said Chebet, who closed a 20-meter gap with a late burst of speed that put pressure on a fatiguing Gidey. “I saw that toward the finish Gidey was a bit slower and I ran hard and I won.”
Gidey holds the world records in the 5,000- and 10,000-meters on the track and also in the half-marathon and won the 10,000 at the track and field world championships last year.
She was so close to being the first Ethiopian woman since 2008 to win the world cross-country title, but instead Chebet, the Diamond League 5,000-meter champion, extended Kenya’s dominance of the race by picking up her first senior cross-country championship.
The men’s race started immediately after the women’s event, 20 minutes ahead of schedule because organizers were worried about thunder storms approaching the course at Mount Panorama, the annual venue for Australia’s premier touring car race.
The men’s 10K race was a tight contest until a four-man group surged with one 2-kilometer lap to go on the hilly, challenging course, with the temperature dropping quickly and the wind picking up.
All three medalists from the 2019 world championships were in contention, with defending champion Joshua Cheptegei leading with only a half-lap to go, jostling with fellow Ugandan Kiplimo, runner-up at the last worlds, and Kenya’s two-time champion Geoffrey Kamworor.
Kiplimo timed his kick to perfection, finishing in 29:17 to win from Ethiopia’s Berihu Aregawi in 29:26 and Cheptegei holding off Kamworor for the bronze in 29:37.
“I think my tactics were the best,” Kiplimo said. “I want to win another gold medal for my country. That’s my mission.”
The course featured tight turns, undulations and steep inclines, as well as a muddy pit in a section called the Billabong that made conditions slippery.
With lightning nearby, storm clouds gathering and rain getting heavier, spectators were urged to leave Mt Panorama as soon as the
race finished and the medal ceremonies were moved indoors.
Aregawi said the course had its challenges, but so did the weather in this rural city about a three-hour drive west of Sydney.
“In the first lap it was hot and then it changed to windy and it changed our position within the race, but the weather conditions were still extremely difficult,” he said. “This championship is very difficult and very tough, but the Olympics and world championships prior have helped push me, and now I am really pleased.”
Kenya won the mixed team relay in 23 minutes 14 seconds in the afternoon when temperatures hit 35 Celsius (95 Fahrenheit), finishing seven seconds clear of second-place Ethiopia and 12 ahead of bronze medalist Australia. South Africa just missed out on the medals, with two-time Olympic 800-meter champion Caster Semenya running the anchor leg to place fourth. A U.S. team featuring former steeplechase world champion Emma Coburn placed fifth.
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