Cockburn to the rescue

ALL SMILES: Weynay Ghebresilasie and George Cockburn.

ALL SMILES: Weynay Ghebresilasie and George Cockburn.

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SUNDERLAND Harriers’ president George Cockburn has come to the rescue of the club’s new signing, Eritrean Olympian Weynay Ghebresilasie.

The former Silksworth butcher has given the 18-year-old full use of his roof-top gym to assist him in his training and food parcels to ensure his diet is not compromised.

The gym work and weights sessions form an important part of his programme and Cockburn did not want to see Ghebresilasie denied this facility.

He said: “Weynay is an exceptionally talented runner and he has joined the Harriers. We are doing all we can to ensure that he is not lacking anything when it comes to his training. The club have rallied round him and are going out of their way to help him. I’m just doing my bit.’’

Cockburn, 70, a member of the Harriers’ for 36 years, was a reliable club runner in his day. He was a 2.52 marathoner and ran 57.58 for 10-miles. He was in the Sunderland team that won the North Eastern Harrier League title for the first time in 1977 and received the Sisterton Cup on behalf of the Harriers in front of a full council meeting at the civic centre.

Ghebresilasie, after carrying his nation’s flag at the Olympics, walked out of the athletes’ village and is now seeking asylum in Sunderland. The Olympic steeplechaser has sought refuge in Millfield, and lives off just five pounds a day allowance. He is not allowed to work.

Despite his current plight, Ghebresilasie is glad to be living in Sunderland. He said: “Everyone is so friendly and the Harriers have been so good to me. They are so kind and helpful.

“In Eritrea I was always being told to do this and do that, but here in Sunderland I have freedom and I have made some new friends at the Harriers.’’

The former soldier’s main target for the season is the National Cross Country Championships at Herrington Country Park on Saturday, February 23. He got his season off to a good start in his first two races in the North East, by running the fastest time in the North Eastern Harrier League at Jarrow in December and clocking the quickest overall time in the Durham Cathedral relays on Sunday.

His next race is the Northern Cross Country Championships at Knowsley Safari Park a week on Saturday, where he contests the junior championships over 8k.

H Sunderland Harriers won two individual titles and two team titles in the National Young People’s Cross Country Championships at Upminister in Essex.

Joel Jones and Anna Robinson scooped individual gold in the under-17 championship and both teams won. The under-17 men’s team was Joel Jones, Ben Craig fourth and James McAnaney fifth.

Anna Robinson and Alex Pearson were in the winning under-17 women’s team. There were also medals for brother and sister Sarah (second in the under-13 girls’) and Chris Bell, third in the under-15 boys’.

H Hollie Lancaster finished fifth (26.46) in the Northern Athletics under-17 200m championship at Sheffield. She finished second in her 60m heat (8.12). Her Sunderland Harriers’ clubmate Logan Powell was fourth in his under-17 60m heat (7.61).

H The Durham Schools’ Cross Country Championships take place at Meadowfield on Saturday.