Olympic champion Tulu to take part in
Great North Cross Country Christmas Race
David Martin, Nova International
12 December 2000 - Olympic 10,000 metres champion Derartu Tulu is the latest entry for the star-studded Great North Cross Country at the end of the month.
The exciting Ethiopian "wonderwoman" who regained her Olympic crown with a devastating 60 seconds last lap which totally destroyed the field - including Britain's Paula Radcliffe - in Sydney will tackle last year's winner and team mate Gete Wami in the County Durham event on December 30.
The great pals - except for Sonia O'Sullivans 1998 success - have dominated the International Amateur Athletic Federation World Cross Country Championships in the past six years. Tulu has won the title on three occasions while Wami - the 1999 World 10,000 metres gold medallist - has emerged triumphant twice.
Now the scene is set for the two superstars to grace Britain's premier and only international meeting at the Consett venue after Peter Elliott responsible for arranging the elite field start lists unexpectedly secured the services of Tulu over the weekend.
Ironically the former Olympic 1500 metres star was at the European Cross Country Championships in Malmo completing contracts with the winner and runner-up in the Swedish city Paulo Guerra of Portugal and last winter's Durham winner Sergey Lebed of the Ukraine, when he heard Tulu was keen to compete at the Consett venue.
After clinching the deal by telephone and the contract on Monday lunchtime, Elliott admitted getting Tulu who delighted millions of television viewers worldwide with her brilliant run to regain the Olympic 10,000 metres title she first won eight years earlier in Barcelona to sign on the dotted line, is the best deal he has ever pulled off.
Elliott said: "It took me totally by surprise. Originally I understood Tulu would be competing elsewhere in one of the New Year road race meetings which are so popular abroad. But I got a tip off she actually wanted to run in our cross country.
"Really it took no time at all to negotiate the contract and everything was signed, sealed and delivered by lunchtime on Monday. I cannot believe how lucky we are to have got undoubtedly the jewel in crown of world distance running to come here."
Tulu is no stranger to the region. After her 1992 Olympic success she ran in the Durham meeting where in wintry conditions over a testing Aykley Heads course she defeated the up-and-coming World junior cross country champion Radcliffe, then a tender 19-year-old.
Three years later Tulu returned for the World Cross Country Championships at Maiden Castle. Unperturbed after a gruelling 72 hours trip from Ethiopia which included being bussed from Heathrow airport to Durham, the 28-year-old won the first of her three gold medals and on current form looks well set for another victory in Dublin next March.
Liz and Hayley Yelling, Helen Pattinson and Tara Krzywicki all members of Britain's European silver medal winning side in Malmo on Sunday are also taking part in the Great North Cross Country.