Cross as strong as ever
Ronny Ceuleers for the IAAF
20 December 2001 - Brussels, Belgium - On the course where the World Championships cross country will be held in 2004, the Brussels Crosscup brings together many fine athletes on Sunday 23 December.
Traditionally, Brussels has always opened the international circuit, be it the World Cross Challenge (which ended two years ago) or the European Crosscup, but this year there is no European circuit because the main sponsor (Energizer) withdrew just two months before the start of the season.
Still the names of the participants in Sunday’s races speak for themselves. World Cross country champion Mohammed Mourhit - although not yet in top condition – competes in a Brussels cross country before his own public for the first time in four years and will face vice-world champion and neo-European champion Sergey Lebid.
Also the number two of the recent European cross championships is in Brussels: Kamiel Maase. Four times European Champion and past-winner in Brussels Paulo Guerra is there, as well as Robert Stefko, El Ahmadi, José Carlos Adan, Guiliano Battocletti and half a dozen Kenyans such as Robert Kipchumba Kipkorir (world champ juniors 10,000m) and other Belgian runners, e.g. Tom Van Hooste, 20th in the World Cross Country Championships last March.
In the women’s race European champion Yamna Belkacem (FRA) leads the pack, with Polish bronze medallist from the Europeans Justyna Bak (WR-holder 3000m steeple) and strong Ethiopean (Merima Denboba, Viola Kibiwott) and Kenyan fields (Edith Masai, Susan Chepkemei, Leah Malot) and others. It will be worth watching Elvan Abeylegesse , the Turkish European junior champion, who won her European title with a very large margin.
The Belgians look forward to the performance of Anja Smolders (10th in World Cross Country in Ostend 8k).