Teklemariam Medhin wins at the 2015 Cross Internacional Juan Muguerza in Elgoibar (Foto ANOC) © Copyright
Preview Seville, Spain

Close battles expected in Seville

The 34th Cross Internacional de Italica, an IAAF Cross Country Permit meeting held in Santiponce on the outskirts of the Spanish city of Seville, will boast a star-studded field on Sunday (17).

The men’s line-up promises to be a five-athlete battle between Ethiopia’s Tamirat Tola, Kenya’s Conseslus Kipruto, Eritrea’s Teklemariam Medhin plus the Ugandan tandem of Timothy Toroitich and Moses Kibet.

Tola to maintain momentum

The 24-year-old Tola is one of two top-10 finishers from the IAAF World Cross Country Championships Guiyang 2015 who will be competing in Seville.

Tola is enjoying a successful European campaign as he was an overwhelming victor at the opening IAAF Cross Country Permit meeting of the current winter season in Alcobendas last November. He then finished second in Venta de Banos three weeks later, while his most recent appearance came on the New Year’s eve 10km race in Bolzano when he led an Ethiopian clean sweep of medals ahead of top athletes such as Muktar Edris and Imane Merga.

Eritrea’s Medhin is the defending champion in Seville and will be making his cross-country seasonal debut. The Madrid-based two-time world cross-country medallist went into the 2015 World Cross as one of the favourites but finished 17th in Guiyang.

Tola and Medhin’s main opponent may be Kipruto, the world steeplechase silver medallist. Kipruto finished third here back in 2013 when still a junior and should be eager to improve on that spot on Sunday

Toroitich and Kibet are also genuine contenders for podium places. Kibet is the other top-10 finisher from Guiyang and is having a busy cross-country season. Sunday will be his seventh race of the winter but he is still looking for his first win after runner-up places in Yecla and Aranda de Duero plus a third-place finish at last Sunday’s meeting in Amorebieta.

Toroitich, the winner in Amorebieta, triumphed in Soria in November and then finished second behind Tola in Alcobendas one week later.

Baharain’s El Hassan El Abbassi will also be in contention while the Spanish contingent will include European cross-country bronze medallist Adel Mechaal, Ayad Lamdassem and Ilias Fifa, who came fourth and fifth respectively on that occasion, Spanish cross-country champion Toni Abadia and Roberto Alaiz.

Kipyegon out to stop the Ethiopians

The women’s side also offers a mouth-watering field, headed by world cross-country bronze medallist Netsanet Gudeta and fellow Ethiopian Alemitu Heroye, who finished just behind Gudeta in Guiyang.

Both have recently shown top form. Gudeta set a half marathon PB of 1:07:31 to win in Valencia last October and more recently won the 5km event in Bolzano.

Meanwhile world junior 5000m champion Heroye finished second in Atapuerca in November and grabbed a convincing win in Venta de Banos one month later.

But they will face stiff opposition from a trio of strong Kenyans: Faith Kipyegon, Viola Kibiwott and Irene Cheptai.

In addition to her world 1500m silver medal from Beijing last year, Kipyegon is an accomplished cross-country runner, having twice won the junior title at that discipline.

Kibiwott narrowly missed a 5000m medal at the past two World Championships and recently finished third in Bolzano. The presence of world 5000m finalist Cheptai, who finished seventh in Guiyang, means that three of the top-10 finishers from the 2015 World Cross will be in Seville.

Other notable entrants are Romania’s Ancuta Bobocel and the Spanish pair of Trihas Gebre and European steeplechase bronze medallist Diana Martin.

Weather forecasters predict a pleasant sunny day on Sunday with the thermometer about 11-13C and no chance of rain.

Emeterio Valiente for the IAAF