Dashing through the snow - Andrea Lalli (Nadia Verhoft) © Copyright
Very extreme weather reigned over Belgium today. Heavy snow began to fall in the morning and continued until the women finished their race in the early afternoon. The organising team and the television crew that provided live race coverage did an immaculate job. Meeting organiser Jos Van Roy was proud of that but confirmed that the event was affected by the exceptional conditions.
“A number of athletes didn’t turn up: British athletes suffered from the Eurostar cancellings, and the Belgium-based Ethiopians got stuck in a train. But most unfortunately it was only the die hard cross country fans that worked their way to the course today. Road traffic was really dangerous and many decided to watch the race on television.”
Lalli exacts his revenge
A leading group of eight athletes was formed in the first of seven laps in the men’s race. Not part of that group was Sergey Lebid who came through in 20th position. “I had a little injury this week and I was very cautious in the start, especially on this slippery course. When I started feeling comfortable I produced my effort, but the leading group was gone”, said the Ukrainian who indeed looked very impressive in the way he moved ahead in the following group. But that was only good enough for an eventual fifth place showing.
In the leading group it was mainly Kenyan Vincent Rono who was setting the pace, followed by his compatriot Jacob Cheshari and by Abera Kuma of Ethiopia. Lalli remained in fourth place and it looked at times as if he was struggling to stay with the pace. “I was not”, said Lalli, “but the Kenyans were accelerating and slowing down and I just wanted to run an even pace and not waste too much energy. In the last lap, we were all tired, but my sprinting finish proved to be strong enough.”
Lalli wasn’t impressed by the conditions that looked very similar to those he is training in in northern Italy. But he was very happy to take revenge for his underperformance at the European Championships in Dublin last weekend.
“I wanted to come back to Brussels which is a favourite course for me. I won the European Under 23 title here last year. But most of all I wanted to wipe out last week’s bad experience in Dublin, were I finished only 18th. It was my first ever senior championship and I was too nervous before that race,” Lalli said.
Kuma came in second ahead of Cheshari and Rono. Lebid finished in fifth place, while Paul Koech, who complained of gliding away on his strides, placed sixth.
Herzog in the best form of her life
“When the going gets tough, the tough get going”, said one of the observers as the women’s race unfolded in truly apocalyptic weather conditions. Indeed, four tough women headed the front: Tatyana Holovchenko (UKR) who lead the field through the first lap, Ines Chenonge (KEN), Jessica Augusto (POR) and Dutchwoman Herzog. Augusto then went into the lead and Herzog was the only one able to respond. Augusto desperately tried to drop Herzog, but, on the contrary, it was Herzog who closed in and moved away from Augusto on the ultimate lap. Herzog cheered one of her greatest victories when she crossed the line under heavy snowfall.
“Another big moment in my career, after winning the European bronze last week,” said Herzog, who turned 24 in September. “I felt great today, I must be in the best form of my life now. I’m coming back from two years of injuries and illness. I decided to move to Madrid and I’m training there with Manolo Pasqua in a group with Nuria Fernandez and Reyes Estevez. That has made me feel healthier and more relaxed and comfortable. Training and weather conditions are just better in Spain. I have made a big step forward. My main goal this year lies on the track, at the European Championships. With what I’ve shown this winter I will consider stepping up from 1500m to 5000m on the track. I feel very excited about what’s happening with me now. It seems like many of my secret dreams are coming through.”
In the final sprint Kenyan Ines Chenonge who suffered badly from the cold managed to overtake Augusto for second place, while Holovchenko came in fourth.
The men’s short cross country was won by European Junior Champion and local favourite Jeroen D’Hoedt, who showed impressive sprinting speed.
“I’ve been working on all my basic endurance skills and that allows me to compete on the short and long distances simultaneously,” said the youngster who carries high Belgian hopes for the future.
Ivo Hendrix for the IAAF
1. ANDREA LALLI, ITA 31.37
2. ABERA KUMA, ETH 31.40
3. JACOB CHESHARI, KEN 31.42
4. VINCENT RONO, KEN 31.44
5. SERGIY LEBID, UKR 32.09
6. PAUL KOECH, KEN 32.42
7. PAUL KIPKORIR, KEN 32.44
8. MENGISTENB TEWELDEBERAM, GBR 32.46
9. TWELDE TSEGAI, GBR 32.52
10. PIETER DESMET, BEL 32.55
1. ADRIENNE HERZOG, NED 20.23
2. INES CHENONGE, KEN 20.26
3. JESSICA AUGUSTO, POR 20.30
4. TATJANA HOLOVCHENKO, UKR 20.35
5. ANA DULCE FELIX, POR 20.46
6. FREYA MURRAY, GBR 20.49
7. FIONNUALA BRITTON, IRL 21.01
8. VEERLE DEJAEGHERE, BEL 21.16
9. CAROLINE CHEPKWONY, KEN 21.22
10. SIMRET RESTLE, GER 21.37