Paul Tergat Opens His Season at the 'Italica'
Kenyas outstanding runner Paul Tergat, winner of four consecutive World Cross Country titles, will make his seasons debut in Seville on Sunday, in the third stage of the IAAFs World Cross Challenge. It will be a baptism of fire since he faces a field of tough competitors led by his compatriot Paul Koech.
This is the 17th edition of the international race - known as the "Italica" because part of the 10 km course was once a Roman settlement. As in previous years, we can expect to assess the form of many athletes who will challenge for honours at the World Cross Country Championships in Belfast in March. Among the elite are the 3000m steeplechase world record holder Bernard Bermasai (Kenya), Haile Mekonnen (ETH), Benedict Ako (TAN), Gideon Koech (KEN), Mohamed Mourit (BEL), Paulo Guerra (POR), Claes Nyberg (SWE) and Pedro Olmedo (MEX). The home crowd will also be keen to cheer on the efforts of the Spanish contingent headed by Alberto Juzdado, Bartolomé Serrano and Antonio Serrano.
The womens race will also be keenly contested with the in-form Geta Wami (ETH) aiming to keep her win streak alive. After victories in Brussels and Durham, Wami is firmly ensconced on top of the Cross Challenge points table. Wami has six kilometres in Seville to show her prowess or allow challengers like Finlands Annemari Sandell or Jackline Maranga (KEN) to dent her aura of invincibility. The Ethiopian also needs to counter other talents like Merima Dendoba (ETH), Berhane Adere (ETH), Manuela Dias (POR), Mariana Chirila (ROM) and Blandine Bitzner-Ducret (FRA).
IAAF Cross Challenge points are distributed in the following way: 1st =25 points, 2nd =22 points, 3rd = 19, 4th = 17 points , 5th =16 points, 6th = 15 points and so on until the 20th place which counts for 1 point. The final Standings will be made after the World Cross Championships event on 27-28 March with $25,000 being awarded to the winners.
Following an agreement between the IAAF and the Kenyan Amateur Athletic Association, the fifth stage of the Challenge, originally due to take place in Mombassa on 14 February, will now take part in Nairobi on 27 February alongside the Kenyan Open Cross Country Championships.