Phil Minshull in Spain for the IAAF
28 January 2001 - Abraham Chebii is getting himself a reputation as a man with a more than useful turn of speed at the end of a race.
A week ago, the 21-year-old Kenyan outsprinted his compatriot and five-times IAAF world cross country champion Paul Tergat in nearby Elgoibar. This time it was the turn of fellow Kenyans Evans Rutto and world steeplechase record holder Bernard Barmasai, to experience first hand his blistering finish as he won the 46th edition of the Cross De Lasarte, held just outside San Sebastian in northern Spain.
Kenyan runners dominated the race from the gun, leaving the rest of the world training in their wake.
Chebii, Rutto, Barmasai and Albert Chepkirui quickly took control and put a gap between themselves and the rest of the field, with only the Ukraines Sergey Lebed staying close at hand.
The four Kenyans shared the pace for the first three of four laps of the muddy 10km race until Chepkirui, 5th in the 1999 IAAF World Cross Country Championships junior mens race, was unable to keep up with his countrymen.
The race was then decided in the final 500m when Chebii prevailed once again, holding off Rutto and Barmasai in an exciting three-way duel for the line in front of 8,000 spectators, the huge crowd grateful for a break in the stormy weather which has battered the Basque country in recent weeks.
The 21-year-old Chebii, who has been based for much of this winter in the London suburb of Teddington, won in 30:42 with Rutto three seconds back and grabbing second place from Barmasai.
Despite his successes at the longer distances in recent weeks, Chebii is still currently focussed on competing in the 4km race at the IAAF World Cross Country Championships in Dublin on March 24. Last year, he finished 5th in the same event at Vilamoura, Portugal, but picked up a team gold medal as Kenyans memorably filled the first five places home in a race won by John Kibowen.
Looking further ahead, Chebii is also aiming at a place among the Kenyan trio that will contest the 5,000 at the IAAF World Championships in Edmonton, Canada, in August.
Last year he was ranked 12th in the world over the distance but his 13:01.9 (hand timed because of a breakdown in the electronic timing equipment) in Milan on June 7, where he finished second after giving Haile Gebrselassie a run for his money, was only good enough 7th place on the Kenyan rankings.
Chebii also admitted that he peaked too early last year and was not in his best form by the time the Kenyan Olympic trials came around, something he is aiming to avoid this summer.
If Chebii was a happy man in San Sebastian, some other well-known runners struggled in the heavy conditions.
Ethiopias Fita Bayissa, 4th in the Olympic 5,000, finished 21st in San Sebastian while Kenyas David Chelule, who finished one place behind Bayissa in Sydney, finished two places further back this time. Sandwiched in between the sorry-looking Bayissa and Chelule was Spains Eliseo Martin, who was 6th in the Olympic steeplechase Lydia Cheromei made it a Kenyan double victory with a comfortable win in the womens 5.65km race.
She eased in front after the first kilometre and, after quickly opening up a 50m lead, then had a solo run to the line. Cheromei finished in 19:23, 24 seconds ahead of her nearest rival and compatriot Ruth Kutol.
1. Abraham Chebii (Kenya) 30:42
2. Evans Rutto (Kenya) 30:45
3. Bernard Barmasai (Kenya) 30:48
4. Albert Chepkirui (Kenya) 30:59
5. Sergey Lebed (Ukraine) 31:12
6. Said Beroui (Morocco) 31:34
7. Alemu Dagne (Ethiopia) 31:34 same time;
8. Philip Kirui (Kenya) 31:42
9. Martin Sulle (Tanzania) 31:47
10. Carlos Adan (Spain) 31:48
1. Lydia Cheromei (Kenya) 19:23
2. Ruth Kutol (Kenya) 19:47
3. Hareg Sidelil (Ethiopia) 19:58
4. Analia Rosa (Portugal) 20:01
5. Eyagayou Diababa (Ethiopia) 20:04
6. Rosemary Ryan (Ireland) 20:09
7. Eyerusalem Kuma (Ethiopia) 20:16
8. Hawa Hussein (Tanzania) 20:30
9. Maria Abel (Spain) 20:50
10. Sandra Hervas (Spain) 21:15