The Oeiras International , one of two Portuguese events in the IAAF Cross Country permit meeting series 2006/2007 - the other being the Albufeira Almond Blossom cross, 25 February, 2007 - gets the season underway this Saturday (11).
MEN - An African Affair
On a spectacular course in the grounds of National Stadium, this event appears to be a largely African matter, with the young Ronald Kipchumba Rutto, World junior 3000m Steeplechase champion in 2004, as favourite for the victory. Rutto was last year’s winner, ahead of Ethiopian Tariku Bekele, who cannot race this year because of a recent injury.
Rutto, who formerly was the fastest ever junior over 2000m Steeplechase (5:20.44), will have the support of fellow Kenyans including Abraham Cherono, a steeple specialist (pb: 8:10.33), who was 12th in the long race at the 2003 World Cross Country Championship, and Kiprono Menjo, who has a 10,000m personal best of 27:29.45 from winning in Barakaldo, Spain, this summer.
The Portuguese field
There will of course be a lot of Portuguese contenders, with Fernando Silva, the national cross country champion in 2004 and 2005, to the fore. He was just off the podium here last year by four seconds. The other major name is of course the five times European champion (1999 World Cross bronze medallist), Paulo Guerra.
Other Portuguese runners include José Ramos (pb: 10,000m – 27:55.66 - 1999), the winner of the 5000m at the 2000 Ibero-American Games, Ricardo Ribas, (pb: 5000m – 13:47.26 - 2001), the bronze medallist in the Portuguese national championship (short race) last year, Hélder Ornelas who was 8th in the 2001 World Cross Country Championship, long race), and Rui Pedro Silva, the 2006 Portuguese cross country champion (short race).
WOMEN - Inzikuru and Chelagat, the standouts
Uganda’s Dorcus Inzikuru, the 2005 World 3000m Steeplechase champion, who was second last February in the world famous Cinque Mulini cross country in Italy, and Kenyan Alice Chelagat, 10th in this year’s World Cross Country Championships in Fukuoka and an 11th place finisher in the 2004 Olympic marathon (2:33:52), are the favourites in the women’s division.
There are two other kenyans to look out for, Magdeline Chemjor (pb: 10km – 32.07), 5th in the 2003 World Cross, and Nancy Kiprop, who was second over 10km in Barcelona (9 April), and set a personal best (72:21) in the Albacete Half Marathon, Spain (7 May).
Three Portuguese champions
Three former Portuguese champions: Carla Sacramento (national winner in 2000, 2001 and 2002, and 1987 World 1500m champion), Anália Rosa (winner in 2004 and 2005), and Jessica Augusto (last year’s victor), highlight the local challenge. Among them other top Portuguese entrants are Leonor Carneiro, Mónica Rosa, Mónica Silva and Ana Dias.
Both senior elite races will take place on Saturday afternoon, after the juniors and open races have been run, and they will mark the start of the selection process for the Portuguese team for the European Cross Country Championship which take place in December in Italy.
António Manuel Fernandes for IAAF