IAAF World Cross Country Championships in Edinburgh.
Struggling with a knee injury for the most part of the summer, Benita Johnson will have her first hit out for the year in Edinburgh.
Australia’s sole gold medallist after her triumph in the long course in 2004, the 28-year-old, who is putting her hand up for marathon selection in Beijing, has finished in the top ten on six occasions.
She joined Anna Thompson, Melissa Rollison, Donna MacFarlane, Victoria Mitchell and Eloise Wellings to claim an historic team bronze medal in Fukuoka, Japan in 2006 – four members of which will return in 2008.
“Whilst her preparation has been restricted due to a knee injury, Benita’s now injury free and is looking forward to regaining top form in the next couple of months, starting with a significant step forward with her performance in Edinburgh,” Bideau continued.
Chilly three degree temperatures and falling snow greeted the Australian contingent when they arrived in the Scottish capital last Sunday after an arduous 40 hours of travel.
For many, including Frankston junior Elise Clayton, and Sudanese refugee Duer Yoa, it was the first time that they had seen or touched the powder.
The team of 22 is one of the largest Australia has sent to the Championships, with six members representing Australia for the first time, and ten competing in their first World Cross Country adventure.
However there is still plenty of experience engulfed within the team, with Martin Dent and Thompson making their seventh appearance, and the likes of Mottram, Johnson and team coach Sonia O’Sullivan all on hand to offer their wisdom and support.
The course, which is renowned for its steep incline and decent, will challenge competitors.
“The course is a lot drier than we expected. It hasn’t rained here either, so it will be fast, although there is a 150 metre hill on each lap that will be tough,” observed Australian team manager Tim O'Shaughnessy.
In total, US$280,000 in prize money will be up for grabs in the two senior races - a US$30,000 prize awarded to each individual winner with US$20,000 going to the first team home.
Edinburgh time (March 30)
AEDT (March 31)
Women (8km): Benita Johnson (Vic), Victoria Mitchell (Vic), Melissa Rollison (QLD), Anna Thompson (Vic), Melinda Vernon (NSW), Lisa Jane Weightman (Vic)
Junior women (6km): Emily Brichacek (ACT), Tamara Carvolth (QLD), Elise Clayton (Vic), Alexis McKillop (NSW)
Picture by Alex Broadway/SWpix.com