ERITREAN asylum seeker Weynay Ghebresilasie defied the unfamiliar wintry conditions to win the North of England junior men’s cross country championship for his adopted club, Sunderland Harriers.
The 18-year-old 6ft 2ins African, who walked out of the Olympic Games athletes village after carrying the Eritrean national flag at the opening ceremony and competing in the 3,000m steeplechase, quickly adapted himself to the snow at Knowsley Safari Park near Liverpool to win the 7k race by 12 sewconds from Gateshead Harriers’ new international runner, Calum Johnson, who led the Tyneside club to victory in the team race.
Now Ghebresilasie, who is being helped to train and settle into his new home on Wearside while his asylum application is decided, has his sights set on winning the under-20 crown at the English National Cross Country Championships at Herrington Country Park on February 23.
The former soldier, who is barred from working and must live on an allowance of £5 a day, has won his three competitive outings since donning the royal blue colours of Sunderland Harriers.
North-East clubs provided three other individual medallists in the championships.
Durham City Harrier Dan Garbutt was third in the senior men’s race, won by Stockport’s Steve Vernon for a fifth time, while there were other bronze medals for Birtley’s Lydia Turner in the under-17 girls and Mandale’s Josh Cowperthwaite in the under-13 boys race.
Durham’s Great Britain international Rosie Smith was sixth in the women’s event, won by Hallamshire’s Hatti Archer.