Athletics: Olympic stars to grace Holyrood’s Winter Run

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For those of us still seeking athletics tickets for London 2012 in July, tomorrow’s BUPA Great Edinburgh Cross Country in Holyrood Park should offer some solace, for there is the chance to see some outstanding Olympic athletes in action.

Bekele will renew his rivalry in tomorrow’s 3000 metres cross country short race with the man he beat for gold in the Olympic 5k in China, Eliud Kipchoge of Kenya.

Two more 2008 Olympic champions from Kenya, Asbel Kiprop, who was upgraded to gold in the 1500 metres following the disqualification for a doping offence of Rashid Ramzi of Bahrain, and steeplechase victor Brimin Kipruto, are also in the field, as is the current European 1500m champion Artura Casada and the European Indoor 1500m champion Manuel Olmedo, both of Spain.

Kipchoge, who has been a frequent visitor to Edinburgh, triumphing in the long course 8k race as long ago as 2005 and taking the short course race over 4k last year, is never afraid to push the pace from the front. The withering kick of Bekele, who has won the long course race three times, usually prevails but the pruning of the short course race by a kilometre may make the outcome more uncertain.

Several Scots have managed to secure invites for the short race including Delhi Commonwealth Games 1500m finalist Ali Hay (Central), former Capital star Mark Mitchell, the Scottish 1500m champion from Forres, and Callum Hawkins (Kilbarchan) who has been performing well in the USA.

European Under-20 1500m champion Adam Cotton (Birchfield), who is the son of former Scotland distance star Mary Stewart, will also be there as will be Ricky Stevenson, who won the short race in 2009.

Organisers, Nova International, have placed much of the emphasis of tomorrow’s promotion, which incorporates a team contest between the hosts, the USA and a European Select, on the victorious British team from the European Cross Championships in Slovenia last month and the entire junior women’s team who struck gold will be out in force, including Scottish rep Laura Muir (Dundee).

The withdrawal of the European Under-23 champion Emma Pallant has given Hunter’s Bog Trotter Rosie Smith, who represented GB juniors in Brussels as long ago as 2004, the chance of her first senior vest. She will join fellow Scots Freya Murray (Edinburgh AC), who was 12th in Slovenia, Amy Campbell, Loughborough-based, who will represent Scotland for the first time north of the Border, and Steph Twell (Aldershot) in the team.

Twell, pictured, a Commonwealth Games bronze medallist in the 1500m in Delhi 15 months ago, is still recovering from the horrific ankle break she suffered in Belgium last March, but finished fourth in the European Under-23 event and could well try to stay with the favourite Fionnuala Britton of Ireland, the European senior champion and Ines Monteiro of Portugal, who struck bronze.

In all there are 12 races with the senior women’s Inter-districts and Celtic Nations under-23 race starting proceedings at 9.55am instead of being i ncorporated in the televised international race at around 1.30pm.

The men’s 8k long course, featuring the nine-times European champion Sergey Lebid (Ukraine), the European champion Abelan Bekele (Belgium) and Scottish champion Derek Hawkins (Kilbarchan) is at 1pm and the men’s 3k race is the final event just after 2pm.