Britton wins by a country mile


Athletics:Fionnuala Britton underlined her undoubted class with a domineering performance to win this afternoon’s Great Edinburgh Cross Country race by a country mile. The European Cross Country champion left a top quality field at Holyrood Park trailing in her wake to win by a massive 20 seconds.

Britton coasted around the first lap in the 6km contest, never far from the head of the pack and simply moved through the gears at the 2km mark. Of her challengers, only Gemma Steel could keep pace with the rest of the field dropped well before the halfway stage.

Steel battled gamely to keep with the Wicklow athlete but could not live with the relentless pace set by Britton who, oozing confidence, strode clear at the start of the third and final lap. Britton was out of sight as she passed the 5km mark but still kicked on to cross in a time of 21 minutes, 32 seconds, a full 20 seconds ahead of England’s Steel.

“I knew I was the person out there that everyone was going to try and chase down,” said the 27-year-old after the race, “so I knew I was going to have to have a strong race today.”

Britton, who captured the European title in Velenje last month before starting the year strongly with a win in the Tom Brennan Memorial 5km road race in the Phoenix Park, was delighted with her form in Edinburgh.

“You do the training, but to be honest, you don’t really know (how strong you are),” she explained. “With the weather being the way it is, and it being so windy, it’s nice to come out here and feel so strong.”

European bronze medallist Steel added: “It was tough out there in the wind but I stuck to my task but Fionnuala was really strong today. I tried to stick with her as long as I could and I did as well as I could have done because she is in phenomenal shape.”

Reigning Olympic and world 1,500 metres champion Asbel Kiprop was victorious on a disappointing day for one of the sport’s greats Kenenisa Bekele. Kiprop won the 3km event in a time of 9.20,

five seconds ahead of Jonny Hay, who edged a sprint finish with Eliud Kipchoge.

The race was billed as a match-up between three Olympic gold medallists, but only Kiprop lived up to expectations as fellow Kenyan Brimin Kipruto, the 3,000m steeplechase champion, and Ethiopian Bekele finished well down the field.

Bekele, who could be the biggest rival to Britain’s Mo Farah at this summer’s London Games, was hoping to show 18 months of fitness problems were behind him. Having dropped out of last year’s World Championships on his comeback he bounced back a few weeks later with a world-leading run over 10,000m in Brussels.

However, he never looked like repeating that form and could not keep up with the pace of Kiprop.