Gebregziabher Gebremariam en route to his victory in Oeiras (Marcelino Almeida) © Copyright
The 25-year-old Ethiopian proved his power in Oeiras over the elements - strong winds and hard rains – as well as his opponents. From the outset a group of six ran together at the front and followed a strong pace: Gebremariam, his countryman Tariku Bekele who won in Oeiras in 2004 (and was second in 2005), the Kenyans Edwin Kuambai and Kiprono Menjo (third in Oeiras in 2006), Italian cross country champion Andrea Lalli, and the surprise in the field, the Portuguese Eduardo Mbengani.
Lap after lap, the lead group grew smaller and in the last of the five laps we saw a strong finish sprint between the young Portuguese and the world champion. At the line, Gebremariam take the victory, just one second ahead of Mbengani.
“This wasn´t as easy as some may think,” Gebremariam said. “I’m pleased with the course, it was very good. But the weather was not so good – too much wind and rain - but I’m training to achieve my goals and this event was wonderful for my preparation». He also said that he was pleased to pull off the win over a long sustained sprint against Mbengani. “I’m happy to see that are good runners in Portugal. I tried to help him, but in the final I made my move.”
“This was a surprise,” said Mbengani. “I didn’t expect to be second in this cross, but this was the mirror of my preparation, which wasn’t so good at all because of some injury problems. I’m very happy to achieve my first goal: to make a good showing to get on the national team for the European Cross Country Championships.”
Finishing in third place was Kiprono Menjo, repeating his finish from 2006, followed by the European hope, Italy’s Andrea Lalli, who was fourth ahead of Edwin Kuambai. In fifth place was the Portuguese veteran (41 years old) José Ramos, one second ahead of José Rocha, the winner of last weekend’s contest in Torres Vedras. Bekele was a distant eighth, more than 50 seconds behind the winner.
Portuguese podium sweep – women’s race
In the women’s event, as with predicted, the Portuguese women lived up to their billing as the favourites. Jessica Augusto, who failed to start last weekend in Torres Vedras, moved herself to the lead and showed everybody why she was last year’s European championships runner-up. With a solid pace she moved ahead a created a strong advantage between the following group, which included Inês Monteiro, the European bronze medallist last year, and Anália Rosa. Upping the tempo, they left Kenyan Milka Jerotich more than 90 metres behind.
After them Ana Dias, fifth here the last two years, repeated this place and prove her candidature to the national team.
”The win wasn’t easy,” Augusto said. “It’s never easy win in Oeiras, because this is a tough course. I’m very happy to win today, I expect to get to the national team and I’m doing my best to go there and try to get another medal.”
António Manuel Fernandes for the IAAF
Leading Results -
1. Gebre Gebrmariam ETH 24.41
2. Eduardo Mbengani POR 24.42
3. Kiprono Menjo KEN 24.45
4. Andrea Lalli ITA 24.56
5. Edwin Kuambai KEN 25.19
6. José Rocha POR 25.24
7. José Ramos POR 25.25
8. Tariku Bekele ETH 25.30
1. Jessica Augusto POR 15.39
2. Inês Monteiro POR 15.49
3. Anália Rosa POR 15.51
4. Milka Jerotich KEN 16.11
5. Ana Dias POR 16.14
6. Sara Moreira POR 16.17
7. Leonor Carneiro POR 16.23
8. Mónica Rosa POR 16.28