Sergiy Lebid continued making history at the SPAR European Cross Country Championships today (14).
In Brussels, the 33-year-old Ukrainian took his eighth gold medal, having now won more than half of the titles in the history of this event. Additionally, Lebid has not missed any of the 15 editions of this continental championship. But his eighth win was probably his hardest since he could only get past Britain’s Mo Farah in the last lap of the 10km race. Italy’s Andrea Lalli took the U23 race, while France’s Florian Carvalho won the Junior title. As in the women’s events the strength of the British teams was remarkable. Their teams medalled in all three races, taking one gold and two bronzes.
SENIOR – Lebid again
In cool but dry weather conditions the men’s race heated up on the muddy and tasking course when Sweden’s Mustafa Mohamed injected more pace just after half way. Between six and nine runners formed a leading group in that part of the race.
With two laps to go it was Mo Farah who forced the pace. Spain’s Ayad Lamdassem tried to follow Farah and a couple of metres behind there came Mohamed and then Lebid.
“We were three and I did not see Lebid. So I thought we might have a chance, but then he came back,” explained Farah.
Indeed it almost looked as if the Ukrainian was beaten, but then he came back from fourth place, running just behind Farah when they entered the last lap. With about 600 metres to go Lebid placed himself next to Farah and then suddenly took off when the course was going up hill.
The defending champion from Ukraine clocked 30:49 minutes and was eight seconds ahead of Farah. Mohamed took third with 31:13, followed by Lamdassem (31:17) and Belgium’s Pieter Desmet (31:19), who displayed a fine performance in fourth. Spain took the team gold with 39 points from France (49) and Great Britain (54).
“I knew I had to kill’ Sergiy to have a chance, so I took the lead. But when he accelerated and got away so fast I knew it was over. Of course I wanted to win, so I am a bit disappointed, but also happy at the same time,” said Farah. He added with a smile: “Sergiy comes back and back again. He is so strong. I hope this was his last year doing this!”
But it looks as if Lebid has other plans. The Ukrainian said that he intends to come back to the event ‘After eight’. “This is my event. Of course I want to come back next year and win again,” the Ukrainian said. But he also added: “This was my hardest win in the European Cross Country Championships. Mo Farah made it really difficult for me. But I like cross country and may be my experience helped me today. I concentrated on the last two laps,” said Lebid.
He said he will decide in January or February if he will run the World Cross Country Championships in Jordan in March.
U-23 - Andrea Lalli shows impressive performance
Two years after winning the European Cross Country gold medal at junior level, Italy’s Andrea Lalli is back on the top of the podium. The 21-year-old won the race of the under-23 year-old with an impressive performance.
While Belgium’s hopes took a blow in the middle of the 8km race, when Yeshetela Bekele limped out, Lalli was always in control. He was leading at that stage and only Turkey’s Selim Bayrak was able to follow him – but not for much longer. While Lalli looked relaxed Bayrak started to fade in the fifth lap and was soon overtaken by Andy Vernon. The British runner actually managed to close the gap to Lalli quite a bit in the final part of the race, but the Italian was never in any danger.
Lalli covered the distance in 24:56 minutes while Vernon was eight seconds behind. Bayrak just managed to hang on for the bronze, crossing the line in 25:17. In the end the Turk was just one second ahead of another Briton Ben Lindsay, who finished strong.
“This was a demanding course and it was not a tactical race at all. Becauseall the favourites simply started running as hard as they could. I tried to run my own race at my own pace. That paid off in the end,” said Lalli.
JUNIORS - Florian Carvalho goes one place better
France’s Florian Carvalho lived up to the expectations, when he won the junior race of the SPAR European Cross Country Championships. The 19-year-old, who had been second in Toro a year ago, had been in control of the 6km race throughout.
Six runners moved ahead in the third of the four laps: Carvalho’s fellow countryman Hassan Chahdi was among them as well as Norway’s 17-year-old Sondre Moen, Britain’s David Forrester and Germany’s Alexander Hahn.
In the final lap of the hard course Carvalho took the lead and finished with 18:42. He was five seconds ahead of Moen, while Chahdi was rewarded for his frontrunning with a bronze medal in 18:49.
France took the team gold as well, but this was very close. With 50 points they were just one point clear of the surprisingly strong squad from Norway. And Britain was close as well with 52 points for the bronze.
“It was a hard race on a partly steep course with a lot of mud,” said Carvalho. “I am grateful for my teammate Hassan Chahdi, because he helped me a lot. He forced the pace at the right moment.”
Jörg Wenig for the IAAF
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