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Bolzano, ItalyEthiopian Imane Merga and Kenyan Vivian Cheruiyot, both winners of the Samsung Diamond Race in the 5000m last summer, crowned their successful seasons by winning the traditional end-of-season Boclassic Silvester Lauf held on a sunny but chilly afternoon in Bolzano on Friday (31).
Both Merga and Cheruiyot won two hard-fought races which weren’t decided until the final sprint. Cheruiyot held off defending champion Sule Utura, the 2008 World Junior champion in the 5000m, in a dramatic sprint in which the Kenyan prevailed by a very close margin with both athletes sharing the same time of 15:52 in the 5Km race.
The men’s 10Km race was no less dramatic with Merga winning by just a few centimetres over Mo Farah of Great Britain, the European 5000 and 10,000metres champion. Strong finisher Merga managed to edge out Farah by the thickness of his vest after a fantastic neck-and-neck battle into the finish-line in the Walther Square. Both Merga and Farah clocked 28:32 but the win went to the Ethiopian by just 0.2 sec. Olympic 5000m bronze medallist and defending Boclassic champion Edwin Soi from Kenya, who was gunning for his fourth consecutive Boclassic win, had to settle for third place in 28:41. Italian Andrea Lalli, former European Junior and Under 23 Cross Country champion, finished as first European in sixth place behind Kenyan Silas Kipruto and Scott Bauhs of the US, but ahead of Sergiy Lebid, who crossed the finish-line in tenth place.
Men’s race -
The men’s race set off from the Walther Square at a fast pace thanks to Lalli who took the early initiative by taking the lead in the first of eight laps, followed by a big group which featured all the top favourites including Kipruto, Merga, Farah, nine-time European Cross Country champion and five-time Boclassic winner Lebid, and Soi. The top four from last year’s Boclassic - Soi, Merga, Farah and Kipruto - were again in contention this year.
Eight men formed the lead pack during the second lap. Kipruto, fourth at the World Half Marathon Championships, took the initiative going through in 7:18 after two laps closely followed by Farah and Merga.
Kipruto ran in the front passing in 14:21 at halfway but soon after the fourth lap he lost the ground during the fifth lap when Merga, Farah and Soi increased the pace building up a gap of 15 seconds.
Farah, who also lowered the British 5000m record to 12:57.94 last summer, then took the initiative going to the front after the sixth lap going through in 21:39 closely followed by Merga while Soi seemed to struggle a bit losing ground but tried to keep up the pace with Farah and Merga until the penultimate lap.
In the last lap Merga launched his attack but Farah was able to respond. Merga and Farah, who are both strong finishers, engaged in their dramatic sprint finish. Merga, who admitted on the eve of the race that he made a mistake which cost him the win last year, bounced back successfully to take a very narrow win capping a nearly-perfect season in which he won the Diamond League title in the 5000m with two impressive wins in Oslo and Rome. Merga was the third Ethiopian winner in the history of the Boclassic.
“I am happy with today’s win and the season. It was a very hard race today. It was a great year for me,” Merga said. “Next year I am planning to take part in the World Cross Country Championships in Spain.”
Farah, third in Bolzano in 2009, can celebrate the best year of his career with a superb race. “It was a very close race but I am happy to finish a very good season with a great race in front of nice crowd.” Farah’s next appearance will come at the Edinburgh Cross Country on 8 January.”
Soi lost the Boclassic title but was not disappointed with his performance. “I had a small problem before the race, so I think I did my best in these conditions.”
Women’s race -
This year’s Boclassic assembled one of the best fields in the 34-year-old history of the race with Cheruiyot, the World 5000m champion, her Kenyan compatiot 2007 World bronze medallist Prisca Jepleting, 2008 and 2009 World Marathon Majors champion Irina Mikitenko from Germany, former World Junior champion and defending Boclassic champion Sule Utura from Ethiopia, 2006 Boclassic winner Aniko Kalovics from Hungary, plus last year’s second and third placers Christelle Daunay from France and Sonja Roman from Slovenia along with local favourite Silvia Weissteiner who ran her first race after being sidelined for 13 months by a serious back injury.
Unlike the men’s race, the women’s 5Km began cautiously. Cheruiyot took the lead with Sule Utura and Priscah Jepleting, going through the first lap in 4:01. The only non-African runners who managed to keep up with the African trio were Kalovics and Roman.
The two Europeans lost ground during the third lap when Cheruiyot, Jepleting and Utura pushed the pace and broke away. Cheruiyot and Utura pulled away from Jepleting in the fourth lap and ran neck-and-neck fighting it out until the final straight in Walther Square where Cheruyiot managed to prevail by one tenth of a second.
Jepleting finished third in 15:59 beating Kalovics who competed in the Bolzano for the seventh time. Italian Silvia Weissteiner finished eighth, an encouraging performance in her comeback after injury. For the Italian, who was seventh in the 5000m at the 2009 World Championships in Berlin, it is the ninth time in the top-ten in her “home” race.
Cheruiyot crowned a great season in which she won three major titles - gold medals at the African Championships, The Commonwealth Games and the win at the Continental Cup in Split - and won the Diamond League Trophy in the 5000m collecting three victories in Lausanne, Paris and Brussels. She also clocked the fastest time in the world in the 5000m with 14:27.41 in Paris.
“It was a good race but it was very cold,” said Cheruiyot. “I knew that it was not an easy race because Sule Utura and Prisca Jepleting are very strong but I came here to do my best. Next year my major goal is to defend my world title won in Berlin.”
About 15,000 spectators attended the Boclassic along the course in the centre of this picturesque Südtyrol city.
Diego Sampaolo for the IAAF
Leading Results -
Men (10 km): 1 Imane Merga (Ethiopia) 28:32 2 Mo Farah (Great Britain) 28:32 3 Edwin Soi (Kenya) 28:41 4 Silas Kipruto (Kenya) 29:15 5 Scott Bauhs (Usa) 29:16 6 Andrea Lalli (Italy) 29:21 7 Ahmed El Mazoury (Italy) 29:52 8 Vasiliy Matvichuk (Ukraine) 29:56 9 Giovanni Gualdi (Italy) 29:56 10 Sergiy Lebid (Ukraine) 30:04