OUT of Africa, there is always something new.
These words remain as true now as when the Roman
encyclopaedist, Pliny the Elder, penned them during the first
century after Christ.
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It was deja-vu for the thirteenth successive time, as Kenya won the senior men's world cross-country team title in Marrakesh yesterday, headed by the peerless Paul Tergat, advancing to a record-equalling fourth successive individual title in the world's toughest race.
The Kenyans had six in the first seven, and in the debut short event 24 hours earlier, swept the first five places. The novelty, however, lay in two senior
victories by Sonia O'Sullivan, first win by a non-African of either sex in five years.
In these recrafted championships, with the introduction of short races of 4000 metres to the traditional longer ones of 8000 for woman and 12,000 for men, the Irish woman defeated Britain's Paula Radcliffe on
Saturday, to win the long event, and then completed a historic double yesterday, when she cruised home 14 seconds clear of Moroccan Zohra Ouaziz.
In the wilderness for amost two years, since her 5000 metres eclipse in the Atlanta Olympics, O'Sullivan, the former world track champion, returned in quite remarkable style.
Radcliffe offered enormously resilient opposition over 8000m, breaking the Ethiopian threat which thwarted her last year. She led until inside the final kilometre, but then, O'Sullivan raced clear, ignoring even misdirection by stewards, forced to negotiate a fence. ''It screwed me up, but did not affect the result,'' she said.
''It was disappointing to be second again,'' confessed Radcliffe, who, however, collected $35,000 - $20,000 as runner-up, and $15,000 for finishing second in the season-long World Cross Challenge, of which this was the final event.
Vultures floated on the oven-blast thermals, as if ready to swoop on any casualty among the record field of 827 runners contesting these twenty-sixth championships. The sickly scent of roasting sugar, almonds, and cashews, hung on the air, as the vendors plied their trade in bon-bons. But the sweetest moment came when African domination, which threatens to destroy the sport, was stemmed by the woman from Cobh, in County Cork.
The Moroccans came on their camels and on horses, in horse-drawn carriages and four-wheel drive landcruisers, museum-piece mopeds and by their thousands on bikes - a reputed crowd of 308,000, no doubt exaggerated, but vast for all that.
They travelled in the hope of a home victory, and were not disappointed when their women's team arrived home ahead of Ethiopia by a single point. Yet it was O'Sullivan with whom they all wished to be photographed.
Their enthusiasm nearly denied her the second win. Intent on selling her a bracelet after her Saturday success, a vendor in the souk caused her to stumble over a wall, gashing her shin.
''He took pity, and gave me the bracelet for nothing - then followed me around for ages, trying to sell me a bigger one.''
Now she can afford to buy half the bazaar - each win earned a $40,000 prize, with a minimum of $25,000 each from her shoe sponsors.
''The second victory was 10 times sweeter than the first,'' insisted O'Sullivan, whose demise in Atlanta brought letters promising special prayers from nuns all over Ireland.
Four months in Australia,
racing at temperatures occasionally over 100 degrees, equipped her well for conditions which saw many athletes whisked from the course into emergency Berber tents. The screams of frightened girls rent the air, as intravenous drips were plunged into dehydrated bodies.
O'Sullivan was determined to contest both races and defuse any suggestion that she was not the outright champion. ''What if whoever won the short race today had not done the long race? There would have been a question mark,'' she said. ''I was a bit greedy. I did not want to share it. Now that I have done it, others might try.''
The Scots acquited themselves with great honour, providing half of the women's bronze-medal team over 8000m, in Hayley Haining and Vikki McPherson, while Phil Mowbray was best placed in both men's races.
Mowbray, when he returned from the trial earlier this month had to live on beans and toast for two days. While others in the team have had significant lottery finance, the Fifer has had nothing. ''I owe #3000, and have bankrupted myself for my sport,'' said the postgraduate student.
Later, he was celebrating with a few bottles of beer brought from Scotland, wearing his brown Hunters Bog Trotter vest, and a kilt. The British team management has promised to look at his financial predicament.
Details (British unless otherwise stated). Yesterday:
Men. Seniors (12,000 metres): 1, P Tergat 34min 01sec; 2, P Koech (both Kenya) 34-06; 3, A Mezegbu (Ethiopia) 34-28; 38, G Tromans 36-19; 44, K Cullen 36-25; 59, A Pearson 36-41; 75, J Nuttall 37-06; 87, C Robison 37-26; 111, S Duvall 38-16. Team: 1, Kenya (1 Tergat, 2 Koech, 4 T Nyariki, 5 WB Kipketer) 12 points; 2, Ethiopia 57; 3, Morocco 60; 10, Great Britain 216.
Juniors (8000m): 1, M Wolde (Ethiopia) 22-47; 2, R Limo (Kenya) 22-50; 3, H Mekonen (Ethiopia) 22-51; 45, G Thompson 25-07; 46, C Thompson 25-08; 69, A Beckwith 25-35; 76, D Stanley 25-41; 82, N Mapp 25-50. Team: 1, Ethiopia (1 Wolde, 3 Mekonen, 4 Y Admasu, 8 A Emere) 16; 2, Kenya 20; 3, Morocco 62; 11, Great Britain 236.
Women. Seniors (4000m): 1, S O'Sullivan (Ireland) 12-20; 2, Z Ouaziz (Morocco) 12-34; 3, K Dulecha (Ethiopia) 12-37; 46, H Pattinson 13-35; 61, N Slater 13-47; 64, A Crowe 13-52; 69, S Bentley 13-54; 76, A Parkinson 14-10. Team: 1, Morocco (2 Ouaziz, 13 Z el Kamch, 18 S Khaldoune, 24 S Ouaziz) 57; 2, Ethiopia 58; 3, USA 68; 11, Great Britain 240.
Saturday: Men. Seniors (4000m): 1, J Kibowen 10-43; 2, D Komen 10-46; 3, P Kosgei (all Kenya) 10-50; 35, P Mowbray 11-29; 37, R Whalley 11-29; 42, M Openshaw 11-33; 55, J Moorhouse 11-43; 59, I Gillespie 11-49; 70, T Whiteman 12-00. Team: 1, Kenya (1, Kibowen, 2, Komen, 3, Kosgei, 4, B Limo) 10; 2, Morocco 42; 3, Ethiopa 60; 9, Great Britain 169.
Women. Seniors (8000m): 1, S O'Sullivan (Ireland) 25-39; 2, P Radcliffe 25-42; 3, G Wami (Ethiopia) 25-49; 13, H Haining 26-40; 25, V McPherson 27-18; 34, L Talbot 27-28; 53, L Wright 28-09; 59, A Joiner 28-21. Team: 1, Kenya (5 J Maranga, 7 J Omoro, 8 L Malot, 10 S Barsosio) 30; 2, Ethiopia 37; 3, Great Britain 74; 10, Ireland.
Juniors (6000m): 1, Y Taye (Ethiopia) 19-32; 2, J Kiptum (Kenya) 19-34; 3, W Kidane (Ethiopia) 19-34; 51, C Walsh 21-52; 59, L Kelly; 22-02; 66, K Fletcher 22-06; 86, R Everett 22-44; 89, S Thomas 22-50. Team: 1, Ethiopia (1 Taye, 3 Kidane, 4 A Bezabeh, 8 M Hashim) 16; 2, Kenya 20; 3, Japan 68; 13, Great Britain 262.