Ukraine’s Sergiy Lebid, and Uganda’s Dorcus Inzikuru were the men’s and women’s victors of the 30th edition of the Almond Blossom Cross Country – IAAF permit – meeting, today.
The crowd went wild in encouragement for the “unknown” Portuguese runner Manuel Damião, a 1500m specialist (3:34.37), second at that event in the 2002 Iberoamerican championship, who led the 10km men’s race for sometime.
However, Ukrainian Sergey Lebid, the former multiple European Cross Country champion, let his greater experience shine through by the end. In the front of a lead group nine runners at the midway point, Lebid waited until the 8th kilometre before forcing the pace, and that attack left only three runners with a chance of victory in the final stages. Then with 300 metres remaining the Ukrainian produced an impressive burst of sprinting speed which took him clear by the finish.
Damião who battled to the end and was only three seconds down on Lebid was the runner-up. “It was a great result for me,” said the Portuguese runner. “When Lebid attacked I couldn’t react, and this error was fatal.“
For Lebid the win wasn’t easy. “I came to Portugal in Saturday, and a felt a lot the climatic difference, because in Ukraine it is so much colder. I’m not in good shape, because I’m recovering from a injury, but I’m glad with this result which has relaunched my season,” confirmed Lebid.
Portugual’s Paulo Gomes took third place, another three seconds down on the winner. The race was generally a good one for the hosts Portuguese runners achieved seven of the top-ten places.
Due to the absence of double New York Marathon champion Jelena Prokopcuka of Latvia who became ill on Saturday, Dorcus Inzikuru from Uganda was the outstanding favourite in the women’s 6km race.
The World 3000m Steeplechase champion, and the African record holder for the distance, took the lead early in the race and, by 5km the force of her pace meant that she was alone for the final kilometre of the race. Ultimately, Inzikuru crossed the the finish line seven seconds ahead of the Kenyan Nancy Kiprono.
Far, behind, Ana Dias, the 2005 Rotterdam Marathon runner-up, a girl from Algarve and one of the best cross country Portuguese runners, took third spot.
For Inzikuru, “this is a great cross, and the weather in Portugal is fantastic. The people are very nice and make me feel good. This was a great victory to me”.
This 30th anniversay edition paid a honour to some of the Portuguese champions who have made the history of this cross country event, such José Regalo, Carlos Lopes, Fernando Mamede, António Leitão, Albertina Dias, Rosa Mota, Aurora Cunha, Paulo Guerra, Ezequiel Canário, Fernanda Ribeiro, and the coach Moniz Pereira, one of the founders of this cross in 1978.
António Manuel Fernandes for the IAAF
Men (10 km):
1. Sergiy Lebid (UKR) 29:15
2. Manuel Damião (POR) 29:18
3. Paulo Gomes (POR) 29:21
4. Luís Jesus (POR) 29:28
5. Eduardo Henriques (POR) 29:31
6. Ricardo Ribas (POR) 29:41
7. Hermano Ferreira (POR) 29:56
8. Andrey Chernishou (RUS) 29:59
Women (6 km):
1. Dorcus Inzikuru (UGA) 19:27
2. Nancy Kiprono (KEN) 19:34
3. Ana Dias (POR) 19:39
4 Anália Rosa (POR) 19:41
5. Justyna Back (POL) 20:12
6 Marisa Barros (POR) 20:16
7. Malgorzata Sobanska (POL) 20:20
8. Mónica Rosa (POR) 20:32