The anual Diekirch Eurocross – IAAF cross country permit - meeting is well known amongst endurance athletes as the steep hill which dominates the course makes it a true test of leg power and of how to handle various rhythms. Weather conditions this week have been cold and wet and that will add to the difficulty of this year’s competition which takes place this Sunday 19 February.
MEN - Mohamed makes a strong bid for victory
There are no sky high favourites in the men’s race, although Moroccon Hamid El Mouaziz claims good form and was already an impressive winner in 2002, and Mustafa Mohamed has stood on the Eurocross rostrum on three consecutive occasions. The Swede will want to climb on the highest step this year after finishing third in 2005 behind Sultan Khamis Zaman (QAT) and Wilson Kipkosgei Chemweno (KEN).
27-year-old Mohamed moved into the top international flight in 2005 lowering his 3000m Steeplechase personal best to 8:15.51, reaching the World Championships final in that event. and then finishing 14th in the European Cross Country Championships.
Four-times European Cross Country champion Paulo Guerra is also a strong contender for honours this weekend. At the age of 36, the Portuguese has had a mixed season showing some outstanding form but then following with some below par performances. This course might prove too demanding for him.
Leonid Rybak from the Ukraine makes his debut in Diekirch and is one of the outsiders, as are the Germans Andre Green and Oliver Minzlaff, and Jarek Chichocki and Radoslaw Dudycz from Poland. Wilson Chemweno is also on the starting list, but he has not been performing very convincingly so far this season.
WOMEN - Tense race expected
In the women’s race Susanne Ritter could be a pretender for victory. The German hardly has credentials on the track, but has a good reputation as a cross country racer who likes tough weather and course conditions. Ritter showed her good shape when setting a personal best of 32:47 for a 10K road race in Schoorl last week.
However, the race is wide open with Russians Elena Pellios and Yelena Zhilkina and Portuguese Marisa Barrios and Fernanda Miranda also offering a realistic challenge for the victory. Justyna Lesman from Poland and Barbara Kuncova from the Czech Republic are also fancied to finish in the top three.
“Unfortunately, Patrizia Tisi (ITA) had to withdraw, due to illness,” confirmed meeting organiser Antoine Moureaud. “But we added Nelly Jepkurui and Adrienne Herzog to the list of participants. In the women’s race there seem to be no outspoken favourites and we are hoping for a tense race. The specific course and weather conditions make the Eurocross one of the most difficult races to forecast. We’ve seen too many surprises in the past editions.”
The local athletics club Celtic is proud to stage an international sporting event in the small state of Luxemburg. Since the Eurocross was organised for the first time in 1969, its tradition has developed and many cross country fans from Belgium, France and Germany find their way to Diekirch. This year the national championships have been integrated in the Eurocross and that adds local interest to the event.
Ivo Hendrix for the IAAF
More information on www.celtic.lu