Date: 11 Jan 2014

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USA’s Heath upsets the stars in Edinburgh

It was a day for the USA at Holyrood Park on Saturday (11) as Garrett Heath upset African stars Asbel Kiprop and Kenenisa Bekele in the invitational 4km race at the Bupa Great Edinburgh Cross Country, an IAAF Cross Country Permit meeting.

Chris Derrick then surged to a commanding win in the 8km race, which was part of the team event involving the USA, Great Britain and Europe. Although there were no African runners in the team events, the best athletes from Europe were present.

In perfect sunny conditions, Gemma Steel took the women’s 6km race as the team competition was won by hosts Great Britain with 159 points ahead of Europe (172) and the USA (203).

With Tariku Bekele out injured on short notice, the men’s 4km race was expected to be a two-horse race between Kiprop and Bekele, but it turned out differently.

While Kiprop was running at the front of the first group of six athletes, Bekele kept at the back and never moved ahead. Preparing for the Paris Marathon with high mileage of up to 240 kilometres per week, it became obvious that the 31-year-old lacked some speed.

In the middle of the race it was then Britain’s Jonathan Taylor who took the lead and was about five metres ahead. Kiprop closed the gap and after Taylor finally dropped back to seventh, the world 1500m champion looked the likely winner.

With about 800 metres to go, Kiprop was leading together with Heath and world youth steeplechase champion Meresa Kahsay of Ethiopia. At this stage Bekele was about 15 metres behind and out of contention for victory.

“I was looking for Bekele because I expected him to attack,” Kiprop said after the race. “So I was surprised that it did not happen.”

But there was another surprise in store. Heath moved ahead with about 250 metres to go and there was no stopping him. The 28-year-old won in 11:51 with Kahsay second (11:52) and Kiprop third (11:58). Kenya’s James Magut was fourth in 12:00, one place and two seconds ahead of Kenenisa Bekele.

“I just put my head down, sprinting and hoping that nobody would come past me,” said Heath after one of the most significant victories of his career. “This is of course a great start into the new year and it will give me confidence.”

Heath, who represented USA at the 2010 World Indoor Championships, will now concentrate on the US Indoor Championships. “I will either run the 1500m or the 3000m and I hope to qualify for the World Indoors.”

There was no disappointment for Kiprop. “It was my first race of the season, so a third place is good for me,” said the Kenyan, who had been involved in a car accident at the end of November. “But I was not injured and after a short break I was able to resume training.”

“It is not a result with which I am happy, but because of my marathon training I had no time to do speed work,” said Bekele. “The speed was missing today.”

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