Diekirch, LuxemburgVeerle Dejaeghere confirmed her status as a favourite in the Diekirch Eurocross – IAAF XC Permit – meeting this Sunday (17). The Belgian steeplechaser dominated the field and held off some strong contenders in the ultimate stages of the women’s race.
Kenyan Joel Kemboi Kimurer emerged as a surprise winner in the men’s competition. The 20-year-old was the fastest in the final sprint to the finish when up against against compatriot Denis Ndiso. Bahrain’s pre-race favourite Hasan Mahboob had to settle for third place.
The Diekirch Eurocross was held in sunny but also very cold conditions, with temperatures hardly exceeding 5° C.
WOMEN - Dejaeghere ends cross country season in style
The women’s race was led by a group of four athletes, including Dejaeghere, Fionnuala Britton from Ireland, and the Kenyans Myriam Wangari and Rahab Ndungu. However, the race remained very compact with no big gaps opening up between the athletes.
It wasn’t until the last of four laps when Dejaeghere accelerated on the steep hill section of the course that the field was spread apart. On top of the hill, Dejaeghere had a small lead of not more than 5 metres over Britton and the Kenyans. But she extended her lead in the following downhill section.
“I was not very confident coming into the race today”, said Dejaeghere, who suffered an unexpected defeat last week in Dour (BEL). “So I left Wangari and Britton take the lead in the early stages of the race. During the race I decided that I had to take a risk on the downhill section of the course, where Britton and the Kenyans looked less comfortable. That was the kind of tactics that worked out today.”
Dejaeghere extended her lead up to 15 metres when she reached the closing stages and was very happy to be the third ever athlete to take a double win in Diekirch, while Myriam Wangari held off Fionnuala Britton for second place.
“It is always nice to run in Diekirch”, said Dejaeghere, “the course is challenging and there is always a competitive field. Now I can end my winter season with a positive feeling. No more national or World Championships for me, I need a lot of rest now and I want to entirely focus on the Olympic Games in 2008. It is my dream to be a finalist in Beijing, but the level in the 3000m Steeplechase is increasing all the time and it will be very hard to reach my goals.”
MEN – 20-year-old Joel Kemboi Kimurer, the surprise winner
A leading group made up of Gunther Weidlinger (AUT), Hasan Mahboob (BRN) and Kenyans Joel Kemboi Kimurer, Denis Ndiso and Simon Ayeko was soon formed in the men’s race. In the third lap the pace was winding-up and Weidlinger lost contact with the leaders and the field started to stretch out. Finally, it was just down to Kimurer and Ndiso who stayed together throughout the last lap and the outcome came down to a sprint finish.
“The funny thing about that was that both Kenyans were convinced that they would be the fastest sprint finisher”, said meeting organiser Antoine Moureaud. “But it offered the spectators a gorgeous 200m sprint between both, only narrowly won by Kimurer”, added Moureaud.
“I felt very strong today and I was sure to take this race home”, said Kimurer who has hardly any credentials on the track or in cross country. “This is only the start of my athletics career today. There is much more to come”, said Kimurer, who trains a lot in Italy.
“What impressed me is that a course record was set today,” said Moureaud. “Never before an athlete finished inside 30 minutes on this event and today that barrier was broken by no less than 6 athletes. The level was very high today.”
Pre-race favourite Hasan Mahboob took third and Gunther Weidlinger came back from behind to finish fourth.
Ivo Hendrix for the IAAF
1. Joel Kemboi Kimurer KEN 29:23
2. Denis Ndiso KEN 29:24
3. Hasan Mahboob BRN 29:39
4. Gunther Weidlinger AUT 29:49
5. Simon Ayeko UGA 29:51
1. Veerle Dejaeghere BEL 17:21
2. Myriam Wangari KEN 17:25
3. Fionnuala Britton IRL 17:29
4. Rahab Ndungu KEN 17:34
5. Valentine Kipketer Jepkorir KEN 17:50