Tirana, AlbaniaTirana, the capital of mysterious Albania will host the 27th World Mountain Running Championships on Sunday (11). Although Albania is a mountainous country with the highest peak Korab (2764m), mountain running as a sporting discipline has just started to develop in this part of the world.
It is the first time that a country with no mountain running tradition is hosting the championships. Moreover, Albanian runners participated world’s top event for the first time only last year.
It was a great job for the WMRA delegates Mr. Bruno Gozzelino and Raimondo Balicco to coordinate the work of the LOC that accepted the job with plenty of enthusiasm and energy with the clear goal – to organize a perfect sport event.
From a logistical point of view the event is rather complicated – all the teams will stay in Durres, about 40 kilometres from Tirana, where all the races and ceremonies will be held.
After having some troubles finding the suitable course, the delegate designed the course that fits all WMRA parameters on the margin of the city. The course is a lap course: men will run the 4.5km long lap with 285m elevation gain three times, the senior women and junior men twice and the junior women once.
Uganda's men the favourites
Thirty-five countries announced the participation of more than 300 runners: 131 senior men, 63 senior women, 70 junior men and 51 junior women.
The senior men’s race is always the top race of the championships. In the last years runners from Eritrea and Uganda were creating the majority of the top-10. This year Eritrea entered a new team, but there are experienced runners in the Uganda team - James Kibet and Martin Toroitich will not come just to be present. An always strong Italian team with Marco De Gasperi, Gabriele Abate and the Dematteis twins will not be satisfied only with a team medal. Perhaps it is also time for Ahmet Arslan, a five-time European champion, to complete his collection with a medal from the world championships. Mitja Kosovelj, the junior world champion in 2003 and the winner of World Long Distance Challenge 2011, skipped the European championships to be ready for Tirana where the course suits him.
Italy sends strong women's squad
In the women’s division Italian runners are expected to form the peak of the group. Experienced Valentine Belotti (champion 2009, runner-up 2010) and Antonella Confortola-Wyatt are among the favourites. 2010 European champion Marie-Laure Dumergues from France is also a specialist for this type of course. The current leader in the Grand Prix and bronze medallist from Bursa, Slovenian Lucija Krkoc, also likes up-down courses. Of course there are also always strong British, Turkish and American entrants.
The junior races are normally unpredictable. Sixteen and 17-year-old runners are handicapped by their age, but eager to show their performances: gold medallists from Youth Challenge 2011 Lea Einfalt from Slovenia and Rafal Matuszczak from Poland and silver medallists from Russia Ekaterina Ivonina and Konstantin Galiullin are the ones who will try to enter the podium. Einfalt was also sixth last year in Kamnik.
In the junior men’s race Tekle Andemichale will try to defend the title, but will have strong opponents in Turkish runners Dag Sonmez and runner-up Yildirmici Sabahatin.
Dragomir Denisa Ionela from Romania and Yasemin Can from Turkey, both gold medallists from top international events and experts for fast races, are expected to fight for the highest position in the junior women’s race.
Strong local, national and international support
Five hours of live TV coverage provided by Albanian national television has bee guaranteed by local organisers.
The organization of the Championships was possible thanks to the extraordinary support given to the event by Albanian Government starting from Prime Minister Salih Berisha who understood - first of all, together Gjergi Ruli, FSHA President, and all his staff in the National Athletic Federation - the importance of this competition for showing worldwide, and specially in Europe, the great potential of Albania. This event will useful for all Albanian citizens because hundred and hundred of persons coming from all the part in the world will see - probably for the first time in their life - Albania and certainly will come home with a new good feeling of this country!
IAAF support for the event was as usual very important. German Otto Klappert, Honorary Chairman of IAAF Cross Country Commission, will attend the championships, together with the full WMRA Council and its President, Bruno Gozzelino.
Pierre Weiss, IAAF General Secretary, and Sergey Bubka, IAAF Vice President, personally recomended this event with their personal presence in Albania in the past.
On the day before the event the important Annual WMRA Congress will be held in Duress.
Certainly this championships seems to be an important step in the history not only of mountain running but of athletics and also of sport!
Bruno Gozzelino and Tomo Sarf (WMRA) for the IAAF