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Spain looking to add to its legacy in Punta Umbria – IAAF World Cross Country Championships

Punta Umbria 2011 logo (IAAF.org)Punta Umbria 2011 logo (IAAF.org) © Copyright

Monte CarloWith just over one week to go to the IAAF World Cross Country Championships in Punta Umbría, Spain is looking to add to its rich tradition in middle and long distance running as it prepares to host the world’s running elite yet again on Sunday, 20 March.

For the third time, the world’s finest runners from 800m to the Marathon will converge on Spain for the IAAF World Cross Country Championships, 30 years after Madrid played host in 1981 before returning to the Basque city of Amorebieta in 1993.

With its long-standing distance running tradition, Spain has managed to collect several honours in the world’s foremost footrace over the years in both the senior and junior competitions, in both the individual and team races. Spanish men took team bronze in 1990, 1991 and 1995 in the long course race as well as bronze in the short course in 2002. In the junior category, Spain triumphed in 1973 and 1979, took team silver in 1976, 1977, 1983 and 1984, and bronze in 1978, 1980, 1985, 1986 and 1988.

Most recently, the men's senior team has been on the rise, finishing eight, seventh and sixth at the three most recent editions of the championships. On the women's side, senior teams reached fourth place in Mombasa in 2007 and in Amman in 2009.

In the run for individual glory, two names in particular stand out. After running to bronze in 1975 in Rabat, Carmen Valero won back-to-back women’s titles in 1976 and 1977.  In the former, Valero ran away with gold over the 4800m course on the Chepstaw Racecourse in Wales by a massive 20 seconds. At the time of her winning runs, she was just 20 and 21 years, still among the youngest-ever winners at these Championships. The key name on the men’s side is Mariano Haro, who ran to three successive silver medal performances from 1973 to 1975.

Spaniards have reached the podium several times in the junior races, with Jordi Garcia and Pere Casacuberta taking victories in 1980 and 1984 respectively. Jose Haro, Mariano Haro’s brother, took junior silver in 1973, as did Jose Luis Gonzalez in 1975 and Santiago Llorente Segovia in 1977, while Candido Alario finished third in 1978.

On the men’s side, among those leading the Spanish charge this year is Ayad Lamdassem, the reigning European Cross Country silver medallist. The 29-year-old has pieced together a notable season, finishing third in the 8Km race in Edinburgh in early January and cruising to victory at the Cinque Mulini in San Vittore Olona, Italy a month later. Most recently, he won the national 12Km title in late February.

Expected to lead the women's squad is Nuria Ferna´ndez, who just last weekend followed up her European 1500m victory from last summer with a silver medal run in Paris. The 34-year-old has performed well on the Cross Country circuit as well this winter, collecting victories in San Sebastian, Caceres and at the national championships.

Although the senior women finished 11th in 2010, the home crowd will be hoping for a showing closer to their fourth place team finish from 2009.

IAAF

Spanish team

Men
Ayad Lamdassem
Antonio Jiménez
Youssef Aakaou
Arturo Casado
Carles Castillejo
Ricardo Serrano

Women
Nuria Fernández
Diana Martín
Gema Barrachina
Jacqueline Martín
Alba García
Alessandra Aguilar

Junior Men
Daniel Arce
Gabriel Navarro
Fernando Carro
Karim Achengli
Ángel Ronco
Víctor Puyuelo

Junior Women
Blanca Fernández
Irene Sánchez-Escribano
Beatriz Caspar
Mª José Pérez
Sara Ruiz
Patricia Cueto