08 NOV 2009 General News

Gebremariam and G. Dibaba secure Ethiopian double in Atapuerca

Gebre-egziabher Gebremariam tops the podium in Atapuerca in 2009 (Diputación de Burgos)Gebre-egziabher Gebremariam tops the podium in Atapuerca in 2009 (Diputación de Burgos) © Copyright
Atapuerca (Burgos), SpainReigning World Cross Country champion Gebre-egziabher Gebremariam of Ethiopia captured a thrilling sprint victory ahead of Spain’s Alemayehu Bezabeh as the new Spanish Cross Country season kicked off with the ‘6th Cross Internacional de Atapuerca’ today on a cold and very windy day.

On the women’s side, Ethiopia’s current World junior Cross Country champion Genzebe Dibaba snatched a convincing eight-second win over Kenya’s Ines Chenonge.

MEN – Gebremariam defeats quality line-up

The 8.76km men’s race offered a star-studded field with no less than four top-10 finishers from the last World Cross Country championships in contention - Gebremariam, the Kenyan pair of Mathew Kisorio (6th) and Mark Kiptoo (7th) plus the Eritrean Teklemariam Medhin (9th).

It was the powerful Eritrean contingent – also comprising Samuel Tsegay, who was a solid fifth at last month’s World Half Marathon Championships with a 1:00:17 PB – that ruled the race in the early stages while the hot favourites Gebremariam and the Ethiopian-born Bezabeh ran comfortably tucked behind.

Firstly the Ethiopian and then the Spaniard were in charge of the leading group but it was Medhin who made a decisive move with the clock reading 16 minutes; only Gebremariam and Bezabeh could live with his frantic pace.

However, the 20-year-old Eritrean started to fade once he was overtaken by his rivals with last year’s victor Bezabeh pushing hard inside the last kilometre while Gebremariam remained at the Spaniard’s shoulder with ease. The key moment came with some 80m left when the reigning World champion found another gear to pass Bezabeh and romp home in 24:41 while the Spaniard was given the same time. Medhin completed a classy podium three seconds in arrears.

The winner was quoted as saying: “Before the race, I was worried because of the bad weather but as long as the race developed I felt better and better. I was making my cross country debut for the season so my performance was really a question mark. Happily, everything was fine in the end. Once the race got underway I realised the wind was very annoying and decided to save energy for the final sprint.”

As for Bezabeh, the 23-year-old Madrid-based rising star declared: “I’m satisfied with my result although the wind prevented my victory in the sprint. Anyway I have been beaten by the World champion!”

WOMEN – Dibaba’s successful start on the senior scene

The women’s 4.825km contest soon became a two-horse battle in the guise of double (2008 & 2009) World Junior Cross Country champion Genzebe Dibaba and Kenya’s Ines Chenonge, a creditable 10th placed last March in Amman.

The 27-year-old Kenyan dictated the early pace of the race with only the youngest of the Dibaba sisters for company. Last summer, both athletes clashed on the occasion of the World Championships in Berlin over 5000m with Chenonge (sixth) prevailing over Dibaba, who finished eighth at the age of 18.

The Ethiopian, who is still eligible for the Junior race at next March’s World XC Championships to be held in Bydgoszcz, injected a brisker pace with 500m to go and found no answer from Chenonge, taking away some kind of revenge from her Berlin loss to the Kenyan. Dibaba, who is also the reigning World Junior 5000m silver medallist, was timed at 14:53 while Chenonge crossed the line eight seconds adrift.

The fight for the minor place on the podium became a tight sprint between two reigning European bronze medallists such as Portugal’s Ines Monteiro (Cross Country) and Ireland’s Mary Cullen (3000m indoors) with the 29-year-old Monteiro getting the better of the Irishwoman by just one second although well back (22 seconds) from the winner.

Spain’s World 3000m Steeplechase champion Marta Domínguez came a distant 19th some 1:31 behind Dibaba; reportedly, the 34-year-old Spaniard is far from her best form due to the number of media and publicity appearances on her schedule since winning the European Athlete of the Year honour.

Emeterio Valiente for the IAAF

Leading Results -

Men (8.760m)
1. Gebre-egziabher Gebremariam (Ethiopia) 24:41
2. Alemayehu Bezabeh (Spain) 24:41
3. Teklemariam Medhin (Eritrea) 24:44
4. Samuel Tsegay (Eritrea) 25:05
5. Mark Kiptoo (Kenya) 25:24
6. Sergio Sánchez (Spain) 25:27
7. Ayad Lamdassem (Spain) 25:30
8. Amanuel Messel (Eritrea) 25:32
9. Javier Guerra (Spain) 25:50
10. Francisco Javier López (Spain) 25:54

Women (4.825m)
1. Genzebe Dibaba(Ethiopia) 14:53
2. Ines Chenonge (Kenya) 15:01
3. Ines Monteiro (Por) 15:05
4. Mary Cullen (Ireland) 15:06
5. Fortuna Zegergish (Eritrea) 15:39
6. Gladys Cherono (Kenya) 15:41
7. Arienne Herzog (The Netherlands) 15:45
8. Nuria Fernández (Spain) 15:45
9. Sara Moreira (Portugal) 15:47
10. Iris Fuentes-Pila (Spain) 15:50