Her majesty was not in residence at Holyrood yesterday, but the king stole back and reclaimed his crown.

With posterity may record as the most awesome performance of his career, Kenenisa Bekele was at his most imperious as he captured a record 19th World Cross Country Championship gold medal in Edinburgh.

The royal park put on a show fit for a king. It was a day in which the sport's history was re-written, and almost made Bekele's film star wife faint.

The Ethiopian was in a packed lead group, loping effortlessly, when somebody stood on his heel, ripping his spike loose, but not right off. It flapped impossibly, and he had to stop to untie it and put it on again. By the time he'd done so, he'd lost more than 50 places. An awed murmur ran through the crowd of around 17,000. Surely his race was over?

Scotland's Andrew Lemoncello was running between 50th and 60th place. "When I came round the bend, there he was, not 10 metres in front of me, fixing the shoe. I could not believe it. Then he stood up and away he went."

Bekele eased back on the lead group, broke clear with Eritria's defending champion, Zersenay Tadesse, and Kenyans Leonard Komon and Joseph Ebuya, and then proceeded to run effortlessly away from them to win the classic men's senior title for a record sixth time. It took him past a share of the record with John Ngugi and Paul Tergat. When I asked if this now made him the best alone, he grinned and nodded.

It did much more than that. It gave Ethiopia all four individual world titles for the first time, a feat last achieved by Kenya in 1996.

Comparisons in sport are inevitable, and rarely has one witnessed a greater contrast in a man's reaction to victory. Three years ago, in St Etienne, Bekele was in tears when he achieved the double - that feat is no loger possible with cancellation of the short course event - just months after the death of his fiancee. She collapsed while they trained together and was dead by the time he got her to hospital.

He was still in mourning, unshaved, when he competed there. "She is in my heart," he sobbed, after crossing the line, victorious. Many who witnessed his grief shed a tear with him. It was one of the most poignant sports moments I can recall. Until yesterday.

I asked if he could compare how he felt then with now, and a victory which had been seen by his new bride who watched him run for the first time.

"I'm here, having married . . . and having come here with my wife. The difference between those two experiences is something which, without my expressing it, I am sure you can imagine . . . There's a tremendous amount of difference. It's the difference between walking in the darkness, and walking in the light."

His wife, whom he married last November, actress Danawit Gebregziabher, confided, "I nearly fainted. I was very afraid for him when his shoe was lost. I though he might not win."

Her most recent movie, she said, was The Eleventh Hour, "a family romance, but suspense and drama". The day had all of that, and more.

It had begun for Bekele with missed flights, erratic eating, and several trips to the toilet during the night.

"I did not feel well. I was really worried. I had stomach cramps," he said. "And when you lose a shoe you cannot run, but it was at the beginning of the race and I was not so tired. So I decided to stop and put it back on. That was the sensible thing to do. It was not completely off."

Tadesse, the defending champion, finishing third, while Komon led Kenya to their 21st team success. It was not Tadesse's day. His younger brother, along with many other juniors from his team, failed to get a visa, and was left stranded in Cairo. It must be of concern to sponsor like EventScotland that other government agencies could almost spik the event. If the defending champion had elected to spit the dummy and not run, it would have been quite understandable.

Britain were 11th, led home by the English champion and trials winner Tom Humphries in 62nd. Lemoncello, the Fifer who had been just a few seconds behind for most of the race, slumped to 79th. "I stitched badly on the last lap," he said.

Tirunesh Dibaba, who surrendered the women's title last year also regaained her crown, and, on a remarkable day for her family, her little sister, Genzebe, claimed the junior title.

Dibaba, the world 10,000m champion in Osaka last year, took the women's title for the third time. "But I was more anxious for my sister than I was for myself," she said.

She had surrendered her title to Lornah Kiplagat in Mombasa a year ago, and said conditions in Edinburgh were superior to the heat and humidty which caused numerous drop outs last year.

Yesterday she finished five seconds clear of his fellow Ethiopian Mestawet Tufa with Linet Masai of Kenya, junior champion last year in third.

Liz Yelling was 15th and led Great Britain to sixth in the team event, before taking a pop at media negativity over the depleted team.

The African onslaught continued through the team events. Australia and Japan were the only countries to medal without an African influence.

Scotland's Laura Kenney was a very respectable 38th, third member of the GB team. "It was great to run well in my first world championship. and especially in Scotland, when I have been negotiating to be a Scotland athlete for about 18 months. All my family were here, including my gran from Glasgow."

Dibaba's leadership enabled Ethiopia to take team honours for the seventh successive time from arch-rivals Kenya.

Charlotte Purdue, last December's European junior bronze medallist, was the continent's first finisher when 16th in the junior women's event, and the team in fourth, the best British posion of the weekend.