Milan, ItalyBoniface Kiprop from Uganda in the men's long course and Zakia Mrisho from Tanzania on the women's side took the win at the 72nd edition of the Cinque Mulini, the last leg of the 2004 IAAF cross country Permit circuit.
The organizers from the local club Unione Sportiva San Vittore Olona suffered a blow on the eve of the event when Abraham Chebii withdrew from the competition due to an Achilles tendon injury and Gebreegziaber Gebremariam was not allowed by the ethiopian federation to compete in Europe after his last week's victory in the long course at the Ethiopian Championships.
On the very eve of the race the Cinque Mulini organizers invited the four-time european cross country champion Sergiy Lebid, who arrived directly from Budapest, where he finished twelfth in the 3000 metres final at the World Indoor Championships. However, Lebid, who was the Cinque Mulini winner last year, still managed to finish second only 14 seconds behind Kiprop.
Kiprop has Bekele and Kenyans in his sights
Kiprop, the 2003 World Juniors Cross silver medallist - and second behind Lebid in San Vittore Olona last year - won from gun to tape. The young runner from Uganda, took the lead from the very beginning and built up a solid lead over the chasing group made up with Lebid, the reigning italian champion Giuliano Battocletti, Kenyan Sigei Kipnetich and last week's French champion El Hassan Lasshini.
Kiprop had seemed to have secured the win, but with three laps to go Lebid closed the gap and the Ugandan’s lead seemed under threat. However, during the penultimate lap Kiprop once again pulled clear of Lebid and increased his gap to about 15 seconds. At that point the win was in his hands.
"I knew that Lebid wanted to beat me but I beat him,” said Kiprop. “Now I will return to Uganda to prepare the long course senior race at the World Championships in Brussels where I want to beat Bekele and the kenyans.”
”It was my second seasonal win after Amorebieta last January, so I am delighted. After Brussels I will prepare for the most important 10,000 metres races of the year at the Olympic Games in Athens and at the Brussels Golden League meeting where I want to improve my PB of 27:15.88 I set last September in that meeting", said the young african who began running in 2000 at school and now spends most of the year in London.
No Brussels for Lebid
Lebid said about his second place: "I felt well mentally but my legs were stiff today after Saturday's 3000 metres final in Budapest. The plane took off from Budapest at 7.40 in the morning and landed at Milan airport two hours later. I had time to take a very short rest and go to San Vittore Olona.”
”I am very tired after competing once a week since the mid of December. This is is the reason why I will not compete in Brussels. I will take a short holiday before focusing my preparation on the 5000 metres in Athens,” said Lebid.
The Cinque Mulini also incorporated the Italian Championships. The national title went to Giuliano Battocletti for the second consecutive year. The athlete from the Cover Verbania team, finished a well-deserved fourth place, just five seconds adrift of Kipnetich.
Mrisho takes women’s win for Tanzania
The women's race was also an African affair. The young Tanzanian Zakia Mrisho won over the Cinque Mulini course where she finished second last year behind Alice Timbilil (KEN).
Aniko Kalovics from Hungary took the lead at the very beginning of the race but Mrisho followed on her heels. In the first lap the two athletes swapped their positions at the front. With two laps to go Mrisho pulled away from Kalovics.
A few metres behind the 32-year-old italian Patrizia Tisi was closing the gap on Kalovics and managed to overhaul her in the final lap. The inspired Italian cross-country specialist tried to launch her attack on Mrisho with one lap to go but finished four seconds adrift of Mrisho, although she captured her second italian cross country title in a row.
"This result was really surprising today. I did not expect to run so well. After the ninth place at the European Cross Country Championships in Edinburgh I wanted to confirm my good recent results in Brussels", said a delighted Tisi.
"The course was really fascinating and everything was perfect today. Now I will return to Tanzania to prepare the long course race in Brussels", said a shy Mrisho after crossing the finish line.
Kalovics did not succeed in winning her third italian cross country race after Campaccio and Vallagarina. "I was back from a very hard training camp at home where I ran over longer distances. For this reason I was tired today. My next race is scheduled in Prague where I will compete in the half marathon before focusing on the preparation for the 5000 and 10000 metres in Athens", said Kalovics.
Diego Sampaolo for the IAAF
Selected results from the 72th edition of the Cinque Mulini:
1 Boniface Kiprop (Uganda) 34:47
2 Sergiy Lebid (Ukraine) 35:01
3 Sigei Robert Kipnetich (Kenya) 35:20
4 Giuliano Battocletti (Italy) 35:25
5 William Todoo (Kenya) 35:39
6 El Hassan Lahssini (France) 35:39
7 Vasyl Matvichuk (Ukraine) 36:05
8 Alfredo Bras (Portugal) 36:27
9 Umberto Pusterla (Italy) 36:30
10 Giovanni Gualdi (Italy) 36:44
1 Zakia Mrisho (Tanzania) 26:09
2 Patrizia Tisi (Italy) 26:13
3 Aniko Kalovics (Hungary) 26:26
4 Valentina Belotti (Italy) 26:32
5 Monica Rosa (Portugal) 26:51
6 Silvia Weissteiner (Italy) 27:07
7 Anna Incerti (Italy) 27:23
8 Vincenza Sicari (Italy) 27:35