18 JAN 2004 General News Verona, Italy

Munji's Athens ambitions falter in the cold of Verona

Italy's Domenico D'Ambrosio, Francesco Bennici and Massimo Leonardi cross the line in Verona (Alberto Zorzi)Italy's Domenico D'Ambrosio, Francesco Bennici and Massimo Leonardi cross the line in Verona (Alberto Zorzi) © Copyright

Italy's Domenico D'Ambrosio, Francesco Bennici and Massimo Leonardi were the protagonists in the 23rd Montefortiana Turà road race held today in Monteforte d'Alpone near Verona (Italy) in very bad weather conditions.

With rain falling for the whole day together with a freezing wind, these were extra-difficult conditions for the athletes, especially because the course is naturally hard (about 1.5 km per lap - 7x for men, and 4 x for women) with a 200-metre uphill on each lap just near the finish line.

The pre-race favourite was Kenyan Titus Munji, the sixth fastest Marathon runner of all-time after taking a surprise third place (2:06:15) in last September's Berlin Marathon, when Paul Tergat broke Khannouchi's World record with 2:04:55.

During the 4th lap Bennici attacked and Munji was the first to follow him, with D'Ambrosio few metres behind. One lap after D'Ambrosio caught Bennici, but Munji had by then already been dropped.

The two Italians ran together for the last part of the race, and crossed the finish line holding their hands, but the photofinish gave the win to 28 year old D'Ambrosio, who has run five times in World Cross Country Championships (the best result was the 44th place in Marrakech in 1998).

Munji had a further crisis in the last lap and he was overtaken also by Leonardi and another Kenyan Samuel Kamau. Italy's top marathon runners Danilo Goffi and Alberico Di Cecco also had a bad day and were respectively 9th and 11th.

"I liked the course and the race, but I suffered very much from the freezing temperatures," said Munji. "I'm in good shape, I am training for the next Paris Marathon. There I will try to deserve to be part of Kenyan Olympic team."

"The race was hard, but we were able to be stronger than the Kenyans," said Bennici, who won the 10,000 bronze medal in World Military Championships in Catania last month. "Domenico and I ran a very good race and in the final straight we don't mind about the sprint."

Kenyan Jacklyne Chemwek dominated the women race from the first metres, ahead of Italy's Michela Zanatta and Asha Tonolini.

RESULTS

Men (10.6 km) 
1  Domenico D'Ambrosio  ITA  31:12
2  Francesco Bennici  ITA  31:13 
3  Massimo Leonardi  ITA  31:22
4  Samuel Kamau  KEN  31:37 
5  Titus Munji KEN  31:44

Women (6 km)
1  Jacklyne Chemwek  KEN  20:46
2  Michela Zanatta  ITA  20:59
3  Asha Tonolini  ITA  21:26