, PUNTA UMBRIA, Mar 20 – Kenya dominated the World Cross-country Championships here on Sunday, although Imana Marga spoiled the party by winning the men\’s individual title for arch-rivals Ethiopia.
The east African giants won six of the eight gold medals on offer, Ethiopia claiming the other two to prevent the cleansweep of last year.
In the race of the day, Ethiopian Marga produced a devastating turn of speed to kill off a quartet of Kenyan rivals.
The 22-year-old, who just missed out on a medal in the 10,000m at the 2009 worlds, timed 33min 50sec around the 12km event raced over six laps of a 2km-long course under clear skies and with temperatures around 22 degrees Celsius (72F).
"I was running to win and I\’m very happy I did," said Marga. "At the end, there were four of them and I was alone so I\’m glad I succeeded."
Paul Kipngetich Tanui claimed silver (33:52) and Vincent Kiprop Chepkok bronze at 1sec.
In the senior women\’s race, Kenya\’s pair of world outdoor middle-distance champions Vivian Cheruiyot and Linet Masai made sure of a stylish 1-2 finish in the southwestern Spanish coastal resort.
Cheruiyot, the reigning world, African and Commonwealth champion at 5000m clocked 24:58 over the 8km course to finish 9sec ahead of reigning world 10,000m champion Masai, winning her third successive silver.
American Shalane Flanagan took a surprise bronze, a further 3sec adrift, for a first US medal since Deena Drossin won silver in 2003.
Five-time bronze medallist Meselech Melkamu of Ethiopia missed out on another podium finish after Flanagan produced a fine spurt with 500 metres to go.
"I feel very happy because I finished 8th three times in the short cross-country," said the diminutive 27-year-old Cheruiyot, who hails from a peasant farming background.
"I\’m very happy about Linet\’s silver as well because we are friends outside competition and we also train together. It\’s a great result to be the first team."
Masai couldn\’t hide her disappointment at failing to top the podium.
"My goal was to win this championship because I\’m strong and running well, but once again I finished second," she said.
Flanagan added: "I am exhausted! The race was very hard from the beginning.
"I tried very hard to be at the same level and I\’m so tired. I\’m so happy and very, very proud of my whole team."
Kenya defended both their team titles from Ethiopia, Uganda taking bronze in the men\’s race and the Flanagan-inspired United States claiming the final podium spot in the women\’s.
In the junior races, Kenya\’s Geoffrey Kipsang Kamworor and Faith Chepngetich Kipyegon wrapped up the men and women\’s titles.
Kamworor timed 22min 21sec around the 8km event, leading from the off at a savage pace, his victory never looking in doubt.
Ugandan Thomas Ayeko, winning his country\’s fifth individual medal at the world cross, came in second at 5sec, with another Kenyan, Patrick Mwikya, winning bronze in 22:32.
Kipyegon, 17 and running barefoot, clocked 18:53 for the 6km junior women\’s race.
Ethiopian duo Genet Yalew and Azemra Gebru completed the podium, compatriot Waganesh Mekasha also finishing fourth to ensure they won the team event ahead of Kenya, with Japan picking up bronze.
The junior men\’s team medal also went the way of Kenya, Ethiopia and Uganda completing the podium.