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Kenya’s Sammy Kitwara beat a top class field and Ethiopia’s Sentayehu Ejigu made a successful debut over 10Km to take the top honours of the 14th World’s Best 10K, an IAAF Gold Label Road Race, on Sunday (27) afternoon on the Teodoro Moscoso bridge in the Puerto Rican capital.
Kitwara ran solo after the eighth kilometre to regain his title win in 2009. The runner-up last year, Kitwara won comfortably in 27:35, ahead of Ethiopia’s Dejen Gebremeskel (27:45) and Lelisa Desisa (28:02).
Kenya’s World record holder Daniel Komon (28:05) and 2010 World Cross Country champion Joseph Ebuya (28:07) had to settle for fourth and fifth, respectively, ahead of countryman and defending champion Moses Masai (28:28).
In the women’s race, Ejigu, the 2010 World indoor 3000m bronze medallist, led an Ethiopian sweep with a 31:50 win, followed by compatriots Dire Tune (31:51) and Atsede Habtamu (31:54). Kenya’s Grace Momanyi finished fourth in 32:06.
Both winners bagged US$20,000 for their efforts.
Kitwara breaks away in eighth kilometre
With a temperature at 25 C and 62% humidity, the race started at 5:25 pm and the Kenyan runners immediately took control of the race. Ebuya led a pack of 12 African athletes and covered the first kilometre in 2:43. The pack kept the tempo, passing the second and third kilometres in 5:27 and 8:12.
At the half way mark, covered in 13:43, the leading pack had shrunk to four Kenyans (Kitwara, Komon, Ebuya and Masai) and two Ethiopians.
Masai was the first to be dropped by the sixth kilometre (16:25) and shortly later, Ebuya, Kitwara and Gebremakel left Komon and Desisa behind to lead the proceedings.
Ebuya could not keep up with the pace and it was down to Kitwara and Gebremakel. They ran side by side until the eighth kilometre, when the 2009 champion changed gear to move 20 metres ahead and sped up to secure the victory.
A fast finishing Desisa overtook Komon and Ebuya to round up the podium positions.
Twenty-four year old Kitwara joined South African Hendrick Ramaala and fellow Kenyan John Korir as the only men to have won the race twice. Masai’s course record of 27:19, set in 2010, remained intact.
“This is my best time so far this season. It was a good race and I like to run in hot conditions. I trained very well. That’s why I ran confidently," said the two-time champion on the way to the doping test.
With defending champion Luis Collazo out through injury, Luis Soto took the national title in 31:05. He finished 12th overall.
Narrow win for Ejigu
In the women’s race Dire Tune was determined to win the race after finishing third in the past two editions. Tune set the pace passing the first two kilometres in 6:00 and the first half 15:46. With compatriots Ejigu and Habtamu and Kenyan Momanyi right on her heels, the race was only decided in the last kilometre.
Ejigu, 26, showed why she is the fastest in the field (14:28 in 5000m) to prevail over her countrywomen in the home stretch and in the process become the first female Ethiopian to win the World’s Best 10km.
Momanyi, fourth at the 2009 World Championships over 10,000m, had to settle for fourth. She had run as a teenager here in 2001, finishing 11th.
Two-time CAC Games champion Beverly Ann Ramos became the first Puerto Rican athlete to finish in the top ten (34:40), ahead of veteran Ethiopian Berhene Adere (34:56).
Two-time defending champion Vivian Cheruiyot of Kenya did not come as Kenyan athletics officials wanted to rest her for the World Cross Country Championships next month.
Out of 11,357 runners registered, 9288 finished (5479 men, 3809 women) the 14th edition of race on the Teodoro Moscoso bridge, in what is regarded as the most prestigious 10Km race in the planet. The World's Best 10k and the Bogota International Half Marathon are the only races in Latin America to have earned gold, silver or bronze label status in the IAAF Road Race calendar.
The still standing women’s World record (30:21) was set here by British Paula Radcliffe in 2003.
“This is getting better and better. I am rejoiced because the event is complex and demands a lot of sacrifice. But seeing performances like those by Beverly Ramos and other athletes breaking records year after year, you feel totally rewarded,” said race director Rafael Acosta.
Apart from the elite race, the World’s Best 10K has become a weekend of sporting celebration for participants, relatives and friends. Attractions also included a fitness festival, a health expo, the San Juan sporting festival, a duathlon and a mini race.
Javier Clavelo Robinson for the IAAF
Men - 1. Sammy Kitwara KEN 27:35 2. Dejen Gebremeskel ETH 27:45 3. Lelisa Desisa ETH 28:02 4. Leonard Komon KEN 28:05 5. Joseph Ebuya KEN 28:07 6. Moses Masai KEN 28:28 7. Chibet Kwanbai KEN 28:35 8. Jacob Jarso ETH 28:59 9. Shadrack Kosgel KEN 29:02 10. Hicham Bellani MAR 29:25
Women - 1. Sentayehu Ejigu ETH 31:50 2. Dire Tune ETH 31:51 3. Habtamu Atedese ETH 31:54 4. Momanyi Grace KEN 32:05 5. Gesabwa Risper KEN 32:34 6. El Kamch Zhor MAR 33:02 7. Gobena Amane ETH 33:17 8. Tufa Tigis ETH 34:04 9. Haile Kebebush ETH 34:21 10. Beverly Ramos PUR 34:40