CALLUM HAWKINS saw victory snatched from his grasp in heartbreaking fashion as Leonard Korir sealed a memorable win in the Simplyhealth Great Edinburgh International XCountry today.
American Korir stuck behind Hawkins for the duration of the 8km race, letting the Scotsman do the hard work throughout, and picked his time to take Hawkins down with metres left to spare. Korir's heroics gave America the team honours overall, ahead of Europe, in second, and Britain in third.
Hawkins felt he had broken Korir with 400m to go, but the American had other ideas in a thrilling end to a day of racing on the cross-country in the capital.
For Hawkins, who has been pre-selected for the GB team ahead of the marathon in the World Championships later this year, there were positives to be taken from an almost perfect display over a testing course.
He said: “I'm pleased with the way I ran but disappointed to be beaten. I gave it my all, that's all I can do. I think over the last year I've learned that if you go for the win, great things happen, if you fall short, you're still way up there.
“I noticed there was a bit of a gap, but I slipped a bit in the last section, I don't know whether that would have made a difference.
“He's strong, he's a quality athlete. I'm happy I even pushed him to that. He's probably better than me going into it but as I say I went for it to see what happens.”
There was at least one highlight for Great Britain, in the relay event, as captain Laura Muir led her team to victory on what was an otherwise disappointing day for the Brits.
However, the relay did not count towards the final team match standings, where USA and Europe were battling for honours as Britain trailed in third.
The Europeans showed their quality in the senior women's 6km race, where Turkish athlete Yasemin Can eased to victory ahead of teammate Fionnuala McCormack. The winner clocked 20.36 ahead of Ireland's McCormack in 20.57, while Turkey's Meryem Akdag was third in 21.02.
Europe and USA's dominance left Britain with a mountain to climb in the men's senior race in order to claw back the deficit, but with a field boasting Sir Mo Farah, Hawkins and 2016 Great Birmingham Run winner Andy Vernon, their task should have been an attainable one.
However, while Hawkins led from the front, he was not ably supported by his teammates with Farah finishing seventh, once again pipped by Garrett Heath, whose dominance in Edinburgh - he has won three times in succession before this weekend - came to an end.
Farah took his place towards the back of the pack early on as per tradition, but while he would make his intentions clear on the track in timely fashion, the Briton was seemingly too far back as the race reached its halfway point. He did, however, move through the field, jumping five places to seventh by the end of the fourth lap.
But with a 30 second deficit to make up on the frontrunners going into the final lap, it was a step too far even for the four-time Olympic champion.
A disappointed Farah said: “I have to be honest with myself, the last couple of weeks of training haven't gone as well as I'd like. I could have pulled out of the race and stayed at home, but I was running for my country and running with the guys so I decided to come out and run.
“It's not where I want to be, but at least I can go back now and get it right.
“I'm not making excuses but training hasn't gone as smooth as I'd wanted, and it showed today. It's not as if I gave up, I was still fighting and I was in pain at the end.
Farah was beaten for the first time by a British man since Ricky Stevenson at the same event seven years ago, and he was fulsome in his praise for Hawkins.
He added: “Fair credit to Callum, he's put in a great performance. I was hoping he would have won the race but he was just pipped. He's a great athlete, and fair credit to him.
“No pressure or anything, but he has shown he is a great fighter, and he has something about him. I've seen him working so hard, even in last year's event, to get rid of us. He wants it more than anyone else, I believe in him.”
Meanwhile, Muir ensured victory for Great Britain in the fast-paced Stewart Cup International Relay event. The Scot, who this week broke the British indoor 5,000m record, continued her scintillating form to ease home in the final leg of the 4x1km race on the cross-country.
Jake Wightman had given Scotland A an early lead after the first leg, and while Neil Gourley attempted to create a gap for the Scots going into the final leg, Muir stretched past training partner Jemma Reekie to finish seven seconds ahead of second-placed USA.
Britain clocked 11.10, with USA second in 11.17 and last year's winners Scotland A taking third place clocking 11.18.
Muir said: “I had to stick with everybody and bring it home for the team. We've been training hard together (with Jemma) so I knew I had to be strong, I just wanted to go out there and finish as hard as I could.
“I've won every time we've done the relay so I wanted to continue that again today. I was captain so I felt that it was my duty to the team.”
In the junior men's 6km event which took place earlier, USA got their day off to a fine start as Noah Affolder took the victory, clocking 19.29. Europe's Miguel Gonzalez was five seconds behind in 19.34 with Affolder's team mate Conor Lundy clocking 19.36 to finish third.
Harriett Knowles-Jones took the first home victory of the afternoon with a time of 13.56 over the 4km course, with Europe's Jasmijn Lau ten seconds behind in 14.06 and America's Nevada Mareno clocking 14.08.
The Simplyhealth Great Edinburgh International XCountry formed part of an action-packed day of sport at Holyrood Park, with the Simplyhealth Great Edinburgh Winter Run kicking proceedings off in the morning as 3,000 runners blasted away the New Year cobwebs in style with a 5k run around Arthur's Seat.
Junior runners got in on the action too over a shorter 2.5km distance for the Simplyhealth Junior Great Edinburgh Winter Run.