Twell finds form but Dibaba wins Edinburgh Cross Country race

STEPHANIE Twell bounced back to her best form to finish fifth at this afternoon's Bupa Great Edinburgh International Cross Country as Tirunesh Dibaba claimed victory.

• Twell leads early in the race. Picture: Ian Rutherford

No-one could match the awesome performance of Dibaba, the Olympic 5,000 metres and 10,000m champion, who over the final lap of the freezing 5.8 kilometres course proved too hot for her opponents to claim an easy victory in 21 minutes 37 seconds.

But Twell and fourth-placed veteran Hayley Yelling-Higham, who shared the same time of 21min 51sec, made Vivian Cheruiyot and Kalkidan Gezahegn fight every inch of the way before the Kenyan and Ethiopian snatched second and third respectively.

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It was a spirited display from the British pair, particularly Yelling-Higham who last month won the European Cross Country crown for a second time only a few weeks after coming out of retirement.

But Twell was the centre of attention and was cheered on by a supportive crowd, who were casting eyes on the world junior 1,500m gold medallist for the first time since she switched nationality from England to north of the border last July.

While Ethiopia's Dibaba regained the title she clinched at the inaugural meeting six years ago, the race for second spot was always wide open.

Twell, 20, mixed it gamely with Dibaba, Cheruiyot winner of last summer's world 5000m title, and Gezahegn.

The host nation's stars gave it their very best shot as they tried to disrupt the race tempo, but ultimately the finishing speed of Cheruiyot and Gezahegn proved decisive in a thrilling last 400m.

Twell, whose track aspirations last summer were jolted when failing to progress past her heat at the World Championships, was disappointing when placing 11th at the European Cross Country Championships in Dublin.

However the London 2012 Olympic Games medal prospect believes, after finally seeing her training going in the right direction, that her career is back on track.

"In Berlin I was ill and I missed some training because of the pressure of university exams and that's why I wasn't at my best in Dublin," said Twell, who is studying strength and conditioning at St Mary's College in west London.

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"However over Christmas I got in plenty of hard training and also plenty of sleep and rest which was what I needed.

"I knew it was going to be a hard race and I love to run against this sort of opposition. At one point along with Hayley, we tried to push it to hurt the Africans although we didn't pre-plan it.

The three-time European junior champion, added: "I've never raced her before but hopefully she'll know who I am now."

While Dibaba's running on snow for the first time saw her reputation remain supreme, her team-mate Kenenisa Bekele saw his awesome reputation suffer a blow.

The world's greatest-ever cross country runner was running over the terrain for the first time since scoring a sixth World Championships victory at the Holyrood Park venue in March 2008.

"I got killed by three Kenyans," said Bekele after his rivals Joseph Ebuya, Titus Mbishei and Eliud Kipchoge scored a heralded, if unexpected, clean sweep in the 9km race.

Bekele admitted he had undertaken some positive training sessions before coming to the Scottish capital via London, where last Thursday he visited the Olympic Park in east London.

"I normally would only arrive a day before so I missed a couple of training sessions," added Beleke who apart from failing to finish at the 2007 World Championships had only once before suffered a cross country defeat.

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Chris Thompson was the first Briton home finishing seventh in 29min 52sec, a huge distance behind Ebuya who completed his milestone success in 28min 41sec.

Mo Farah paid the price for going off too quickly in the domestic 4km when, after opening what looked like being a winning lead, he was hauled in by Ricky Stevenson and Steve Vernon.

Stevenson 21, the last Briton to run a sub-four minute mile, and Vernon, runner-up 12 months ago, roped in the former EuroCross champion as he struggled after his his early exertions on the final circuit.

Farah tried desperately to stay in contact but faded when his opponents put in another testing surge before Stevenson, scoring the biggest win of his career to date, outpaced Vernon by three seconds to win in 13min 20sec.

Farah, who heads to Kenya for an altitude camp on Tuesday, said: "I went off too hard and at the end I had nothing left.

"I've got to put this to the back of my mind and come back positive. I promise you, I'll come back stronger."

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