Kenenisa Bekele went into the 2007 IAAF World Cross Country championships in Mombasa as the favorite to win a historic sixth consecutive title in the senior men’s race over 12km.
He was in control of the race ran at the picturesque course that straddled the seaside at the Mombasa Golf Course and was about to engage into cruise control when the inexplicable happened -…he pulled out of the race!
Well, the conditions in Mombasa were humid and stifling and had taken its toll on the record chasing Bekele who had ceded his lead to Eritrean Zersenay Taddese.
Bekele had nothing in his reserve tank to mount a comeback, his trademark sprint could not be summoned despite his best efforts and he walked off the course barely 800m from the finish, handing the title to the Eritrean in a time of 35 minutes 50 seconds.
While Bekele’s dramatic departure from the race was a shock, it couldn’t take away from the powerful performance displayed by Tadesse, the Olympic 10,000m bronze medallist who was clearly prepared for everything these championships would throw at him, be it the heat or the opposition.
Speaking to the IAAF after the race, Tadesse said, “I feel happy and proud for all Eritreans. I’m very happy and have no words to express my feelings.”
Tadesse, who trained part of the year in Spain, said that preparation there in 2006 helped him for the conditions in Mombasa. “I trained quite a bit in heat similar to this,” he said. Tadesse said he didn’t feel surprised when he caught up and passed Bekele, and didn’t realize that he had dropped out. “I just didn’t see him,” he said.
Kenya’s Moses Mosop and Bernard Kiprop Kipyego took second and third place in a race that had just delivered the biggest upset in the history of the championships.