Kenya’s Joseph Ebuya and Ethiopia’s Meselech Melkamu captured fine wins in the 24th edition of the ‘Cross Internacional Valle de Llodio’, the first Spanish leg of the current EAA Cross Country permit season, which took place today (18) on a nice (13ºC at the time of the races) and sunny day. Despite quite a rainy week the “Ellakuri” circuit was almost free of mud as the sun had managed to dry the ground on the previous hours of the event.
Men – Ebuya make amends from Osaka disappointment
After Uganda’s Moses Kipsiro withdrawal was confirmed it became clear that the Kenyan armada had a solid chance to take the spoils for the first time since 2002 when the then World 10,000m reigning champion Charles Kamathi succeeded in style. Right from the gun Ebuya and Hosea Macharinyang dictated the pace of the race closely followed by their compatriots Robert Sigei, Kiprono Menjo and Micah Kogo while the Eritrean pair of Ali Abdallah and Kidane Tadesse were still in contention but seemed in trouble.
By the halfway point (5km) it became clear that, barring disaster, the race would witness a Kenyan victor and the quoted five athletes had managed to leave the Eritreans well behind. There were no remarkable changes until the final 2.1km lap when Ebuya injected a more brisk pace which was only partially kept by Macharinyang and Menjo.
Ebuya, who is the reigning World Junior 10,000m silver and 5000m bronze medallist, proved to be the strongest by far in the final stages as he entered the homestraight over the ancient ash track unchallenged. Even so, the 20-year-old gifted the crowd assembled a generous sprint to stamp his authority on his well-known fellow Kenyans Menjo and Macharinyang who snatched second and third respectively some eight and ten seconds adrift.
“I’m happy to give back to Kenya the Llodio honours. It’s always pleasant to win a race but my only goal and focus for this season is the Beijing Olympics in August,” said the Turkana-born athlete before explaining, “Turkana is a terribly hot area placed in the North of my country near the Ethiopian and Sudan borders. The heat is so unbearable there that there are no athletes in Turkana, people only manage to walk. That’s the reason I usually make my championships preparations in the altitude of Eldoret or Kasabet,” confirmed the winner.
Asked on his weak performance at the Osaka Worlds – he didn’t make the final at his specialist 5000m event – Ebuya explained, “It was bad luck, as one meal in Osaka didn’t agree with me and that was the reason why I had a below-par performance.”
Women – Melkamu in a class of her own
The women’s event was billed as a clash between two 5000m stars such as Kenya’s World silver medallist in Osaka Vivian Cheruiyot and Ethiopia’s Meselech Melkamu who, on a statistical note, has grabbed the last three bronze medals at stake in the World Cross Country Championships – two in Fukuoka 2006 (long & short races) plus Mombasa 2007.
But the much eagerly awaited face-to-face simply didn’t happen as Melkamu and Hungary’s Aniko Kalovics pushed hard from the start and Cheruiyot didn’t offer any opposition to them, to such an extend that the 24-year-old Kenyan was clearly out of the podium places before mid-race and so the Ethiopian’s toughest rival at the end was Kenya’s World 3000m steeplechase bronze medallist Eunice Jepkorir.
It was with six minutes on the clock that Melkamu destroyed any opposition from Jepkorir and Kalovics – the only other women who dared to live with Melkamu’s pace – and from then on she built a wider and wider lead to romp home unopposed with a handsome margin of 13 seconds over Jepkorir and a massive 49 seconds gap on Kalovics, who equalled her third place from last year.
Way back Cheruiyot and Eritrea’s Simret Sultan took turns in their fight for fourth place which finally went to the former thanks to her superior track speed, although both athletes were given the same time, 24:32, which means they would have been lapped by Melkamu on a track event given the huge difference (1:23).
“I’m delighted to win for the second year in a row. My next appearances will likely be also in Spain, probably Soria and Alcobendas,” said the overwhelming victor Melkamu who denied a double Kenyan today in Llodio.
Emeterio Valiente for the IAAF
Men (9170m course) -
1. Joseph Ebuya (Ken)27:05
2. Koprono Menjo (Ken) 27:13
3. Hosea Macharinyang (Ken) 27:15
4. Robert Sigei (Ken) 27:18
5. Micah Kogo (Ken) 27:25
6. Ali Abdallah (Eri) 28:03
7. Ricardo Serrano (Esp) 28:17
8. Kidane Tadese (Eri) 28:22
9. Ayad Landassem (Esp) 28:24
10. Javier Guerra (Esp) 28:26
Women (7020m course) -
1. Meselech Melkamu (Eth) 23:09
2. Eunice Jepkorir (Ken) 23:22
3. Aniko Kalovics (Hun) 23:58
4. Vivian Cheruiyot (Ken) 24:32
5. Simret Sultan (Eri) 24:32
6. Alessandra Aguilar (Esp) 24:53
7. Azucena Díaz (Esp) 25:12
8. Irene Pelayo (Esp) 25:20
9. Judit Plá (Esp) 25:25
10. Marina Bastos (Por) 25:44