Gold medalist Ezekiel Kemboi of Kenya poses during the medal ceremony for the Men's 3000m Steeplechase final on Day 10 of the London 2012 Olympic Games on 6 August 2012 (Getty Images) © Copyright
The Castelbuono event, the oldest road race in Europe and an IAAF Gold Label Road Race, is a very popular event held in a small village of 10,000 inhabitants in the mountains of Sycilian Madonie. The race is not known only for its fascinating but very tough course but also for the knowledgeable crowd who pack the streets of Castelbuono creating a magical atmosphere.
The race is traditionally held on 26 July, the day which celebrates Saint Anna, the Patron Saint of Castelbuono, but its date has been postponed to mid-September to avoid the clash with the Olympic Games in London.
Three Olympic medallists from London 2012 will line-up on Sunday afternoon for what promises to be a fantastic clash which will certainly live up to the race’s tradition. Kenyan Ezekiel Kemboi, reigning Olympic and World champion in the 3000m Steeplechase, will take on Thomas Longosiwa from Kenya and Tariku Bekele from Ethiopia, respectively Olympic bronze medallists in the 5000m and the 10,000m.
Kemboi won his second Olympic gold medal in the Steeplechase in London eight years after his first triumph in Athens 2004. That victory came a year after he won his second consecutive world gold medal in Daegu. Kemboi celebrated his triumph in London by crossing the finish-line in lane eight as he did last year in Daegu to express his joy in a style which is reminiscent of Usain Bolt. He became the second steeplechaser in the history of the Olympic Games after Finland’s Volmari Iso-Hollo to win a second Olympic title. He is well known in Italy as he spends and trains most of the year in Siena. He did not need to run to school as in the case of many Kenyan runners. He started running seriously after he left school and was spotted by Paul Ereng, 800m Olympic champion in Seoul 1988, who became his first coach. He said that he will try the Marathon in the future and the Castelbuono race will be his first step to his transition from a steeplechaser to a 42 km runner.
Tariku Bekele made a successful transition to 10,000m this year and that paid off at the Olympic Games where he collected the Olympic bronze medal in London beating his illustrious brother Kenenisa by one position. Tariku also ran fast times in the 10,000m on the track clocking 27:03.24 in Birmingham and 27:11.70 in Hengelo.
Longosiwa won his first major international medal in the 5000m in London 2012 after finishing 11th in Beijing 2008 and 6th at the 2011 World Championships.
Kenya will be looking for its 16th win in Castelbuono and the second in a row after Geoffrey Mutai’s triumph in last year’s edition.
Ethiopia will be also represented by this year’s 5000m World Junior champion Muktar Edris Awel who won in Barcelona last July in 13:38.95 and has a PB of 28:44.95 over 10,000m, and by 2009 Boston Marathon winner Deriba Merga, who finished fourth in the Marathon at the 2008 Olympic Games and ran 27:02.62 in the 10,000m.
Italian hopes will be carried by experienced Mrathon runner Ruggero Pertile and steeplechaser Yuriy Floriani.
Pertile finished a solid tenth in London and eighth at the 2011 World Championships.
Floriani produced a major surprise at the London Games where he qualified for the Steeplechase final where he finished 13th. Floriani, also seventh at the European Championships in Helsinki, hails from Trento in Northern Italy but he now lives in Altofonte in Sicily with his wife Angela Rinicella (a former middle-distance runner) and their three-year-old daughter Noemi.
Diego Sampaolo for the IAAF