AFTER four years shackled in relative obscurity, Abede Dinkesa broke away from the might of Africa and back into the limelight yesterday to claim an unexpected but impressive victory in the senior men's race at the Bupa Great Edinburgh International Cross-Country.
The Ethiopian, who had disappeared from the grand stages of athletes due to a persistent Achilles problem, took the sound of the bell as his cue to burst audaciously away from a world-class field in Holyrood Park, completing the 8.9km course in 26.50, ahead of Kenya's Mang'ata Ndiwa and Zersenay Tadese.
The north wind was biting, its 50 miles per hour gusts enough to blow the cap of one unsuspecting onlooker up, up and away across the course.
Dinkesa made it all look like a breeze. Ndiwa and his compatriot Eliud Kipchoge, in pursuit, suspected the pacesetter may have expended too much, too soon but there was no holding him back. "I looked at the others. Eliud looked tired so I went for it," he revealed. Tadese made a late burst but no-one could dent the victor's cushion.
Andrew Lemoncello could only finish in 12th place, a minute off the leaders. "I couldn't really deal with the conditions," admitted the Fifer, who will return to the United States today. "I've done all my endurance work but not much on strength and I couldn't make up the gap."
Steph Twell had been the focus of attention in the women's event and although the three-time European junior champion came a creditable fourth, it was another 19-year-old who drove home to the Anglo-Scot how much work still lies ahead if she is to live up to the enormous hype that has accompanied her transition into the senior ranks.
Linet Masai, the Kenyan prodigy who came fourth at the Beijing Olympics, improved on her third spot of 12 months ago and left the field chasing shadows on the penultimate descent of Haggis Knowe, her time over the 5.6km of 19.02 enough for a ten-second margin over Ethiopian's Mestewat Tufa, with Viola Kibiwott taking third.
"I felt comfortable," remarked Masai. Twell, ever ambitious, conceded she lacked an extra gear when it mattered. "I wasn't going as quickly as the others," she said, despite retrieving an early deficit when Portugal's Jessica Augusto stretched out the field on the initial lap. "With about 200 metres to go, I need that injection of pace." Freya Murray and Laura Kenney came ninth and 10th, respectively.
Andy Baddeley's track speed was a telling factor in the men's 4km as last year's world's fastest miler produced a speedy final lap to retain his title, finishing three seconds clear of Steve Vernon. "I didn't want to leave it late like last year," said Baddeley.