After setting a new personal best to take the bronze in Vilamoura Martin Sulle showed his form by winning the Italian 'Giro al Sas' on Sunday
The IAAF World Half Marathon bronze medal has changed Tanzanian Martin Sulle's life. He won the medal two weeks ago in Vilamoura (Portugal), where he was beaten only by Martin Lel and teammate Fabian Joseph. He set a new PB with 1:00:56 and he is now more confident. On Saturday he arrived in Trento as the main favourite for the 57th Giro al Sas (10 km), one of the oldest Italian road races.
Race director Gianni Demadonna was able to bring in Trento other two 2003 World medals: the Moroccan Jaouad Gharib, who won the marathon in Paris, and the Italian Stefano Baldini, who was third in the same race, just like two years ago in Edmonton.
Off-form, Gharib did not race so Sunday he was just a "special guest". Baldini did race, but he could not repeat last year's win. In 2002 he was in good shape for the New York Marathon, this year this was his first race since after the Worlds. He is now starting long-term training towards his real big goal for 2004: Olympic marathon gold in Athens.
In the pre-race forecast other favourites were the Kenyans: 2003 World junior cross bronze medal Solomon Bushendich, 2000 World junior 10,000 metres and cross champion Robert Kipchumba and Daniel Rono (1:00:14 last year in the half marathon). Two weeks ago Kipchumba dominated the Giro di Rovereto, taking place near Trento, and some days before in the Sicilian city of Scicli he was about to beat Kenenisa Bekele, losing for just 2 seconds.
The start of the race was slow. The pace increased in the fourth of the ten laps, when Ukrainan Vasyl Matviychuk and Sulle went ahead of the pack. The main break was in the seventh lap, when just the three Kenyans were able to stay with the two leaders: Bushendich, Kipchumba and Rono. Baldini was ten metres behind, together with 10.000 Italian champion Marco Bartoletti and Kenyan Ben Kiplimo. Other top Italian marathon runners Migidio Bourifa, Fabio Rinaldi (2002 Italian champion) and Daniele Caimmi (sixth in Worlds marathon) had already been dropped.
Then Matviychuk and Rono lost contact and in the lead pack they remained three. Last lap began with an attack by Bushendich, but he was not able to pull away. In the final straight Sulle won the race with 26:34, 1 second ahead of Bushendich and 3 seconds ahead of Kipchumba. Matviychuk was fourth. They ran the last lap (every lap was about 1 km, but the course was bendy) in 2:34. Sulle is the first Tanzanian to win Giro al Sas.
For the fifth place Bartoletti outsprinted Baldini. The two Italians crossed the finish line half a minute after the winner. "After Paris I had not trained for two weeks", Baldini said after the race. "For the other two weeks I ran just one hour or less every day. Now I'm working hard again. I'm going to run few races until Athens. Of course I will run a spring marathon, I do not know yet whether London or a Japanese one, like Tokyo or Lake Biwa".
On the contrary there is no marathon planned for Sulle's in the near future. "The main goal for 2004 will be to improve on the result of Vilamoura", his Italian coach Renato Canova said. "The World Half Marathon Championship will be in New Delhi in October. We are sure he can run the distance faster than one hour next year if he finds the right race".
Officially born in 1982, Sulle started running seriously four years ago. In 2002 he won the Setubal Half Marathon with his former PB of 1:01:25, and last April he was third in the Stramilano (1:01:33). Before taking up running, he earned a living like so many people in his country as a farmer.
RESULTS (10 KM)
1° Martin Sulle TAN 28:34
2° Solomon Bushendich KEN 28:35
3° Robert Kipchumba KEN 28:37
4° Vasyl Matviychuk UKR 29:04
5° Marco Bartoletti ITA 29:07
6° Stefano Baldini ITA 29:07
7° Ben Kiplimo KEN 29:09
8° Daniel Rono KEN 29:13
9° Paul Wakou UGA 29:22
10° Migidio Bourifa ITA 29:24
Full results and details (in Italian) http://www.sportincampo.it/giroalsas2003/