Veerle Dejaeghere won the Lotto Cross Cup – EAA XC Permit - in Roeselare on Sunday (30 Nov) after an impressive display of strength and endurance.
The Belgian athlete was making her last appearance in front of her local fans. Earlier this week the 35-year old Dejaeghere announced that she will end her athletics career in a few weeks time. Pieter Desmet won the men’s race in Roeselare.
WOMEN - Dejaeghere makes it an impressive solo effort
2007 race winner Ancuta Bobocel from Romania immediately went into the lead to make the race tough from the early stages. Behind the leaders, Annemari Sandell stumbled and fell to the ground dislodging a shoe. In the process the 31-year-old Finn lost about 30 seconds and did nothing else but chasing the leaders from start to finish.
Meanwhile, Dejaeghere had caught Bobocel and soon left the Romanian behind to make it a solo effort. Bobocel was joined by Masila Nduge first and then Vanden Bempt closed the gap as well.
In the last lap Sandell also joined the following group and confidently took the lead of that pack, and ultimately took second place. 19 seconds behind the Belgian. Nduge finished third, two seconds further back.
Dejaeghere was loudly cheered when she crossed the finish line in triumph. Her home is only a 20 minutes drive away from Roeselare. So her local fans turned out in massive numbers and they were excited to see their idol run.
Amongst the favourites in her last international championship
“Thank you for your wonderful career, Veerle”, was written on a big banner in honour of Veerle Dejaeghere. Dejaeghere started working as a teacher a few weeks ago and announced the end of her career recently. Dejaeghere was a double Olympian in Sydney and in Beijing and collected international honours at 1500m, 3000m Steeplechase and in cross country.
Dejaeghere thanked her home crowd in an emotional speech. “The European Cross Country Championships in Brussels in two weeks is the last championship that I will compete at. But I’m not completely abandoning my spikes after that. Maybe I will be running a few more cross country races in January,” said Dejaeghere.
In 2007, Dejaeghere won the IAAF Cross Country permit meeting in Brussels and that places her amongst the favourites for the European XC title. “My aim is to make it a top 10 finish. The course is difficult and the championship is run over a distance of 8 kilometres. It will not be easy at all.”
Sandell back into the international limelight
Almost 32-years-old, Annemari Sandell showed impressive form in Roeselare. “I think I was able to challenge Dejaeghere today for victory if I didn’t fall in the start of the race,” said the Finn, who took the Nordic XC title on 15 November.
“I hope that this is the beginning of a real comeback for me. I suffered severely from hamstring injuries between 2000 and 2002 and I underwent surgery on different occasions. In 2006 I was sidelined again. But I do hope that I can reach my best level again.”
Sandell was an outstanding cross country runner between 1996 and 1999 and also broke 15 minutes at 5000m. She was World Junior champion and European senior XC champion in 1995, and in 1999 took the World XC Short Course bronze medal.
“If I can continue training properly I will concentrate on the marathon in the next years,” says Sandell. “But my first goal will be the European Cross Country Championships. I’m very eager to prove there that I’m back in business.”
MEN - Desmet in control
The men’s race was won by a clear margin by Pieter Desmet. The 25-year-old Belgian left his compatriot Atelaw Yeshetela Bekele behind at the halfway mark and cruised to victory in a dominating style.
“This is my favourite course, on this muddy course I can use my versatility as a steeplechaser. I’m building up my shape for the European Championships. I want to be in the top 10 in Brussels,” said Desmet.
22-year-old Bekele came to Belgium at the age of 16 and was recently awarded Belgian citizenship. “I want to win a medal at the European Under-23 Cross Country Championships for my new country,” said the former Ethiopian after he crossed the line in second place.
Ivo Hendrix for the IAAF
1 Pieter Desmet BEL 31:15
2 Atelaw Yeshetela Bekele BEL 31:25
3 Willem Van Hoof BEL 31:32
4 Dame Faisa Tasama ETH 31:43
5 Dries Busselot BEL 31:43
1 Veerle Dejaeghere BEL 24:09
2 Annemari Sandell FIN 24:28
3 Masila Nduge KEN 24:30
4 Sigrid Vanden Bempt BEL 24:41
5 Ancuta Bobocel ROM 24:46