The tussle between Kenya and Ethiopia in the men’s race and a women’s race featuring reigning 1500m Olympic champion Nancy Lagat will highlight the 78th edition of the Cinque Mulini in San Vittore Olona.
The Cinque Mulini is the seventh leg of the 2009/2010 IAAF Cross Country Permit meetings held in the lead-up to the 2010 IAAF World Cross Country Championships in Bydgoszcz (Poland) on 28th March.
This year’s Cinque Mulini will be marked by a major change to the course. The 2010 race will move away from the so-called “Cross Country Stadium” where the race started and finished in the recent years and will be held on a new course which moves the race closer to the famous five mills which have contributed to the legend of the Italian race. In recent years runners passed through only two of the five mills. The aim of the organizers is to bring back the Cinque Mulini to its origins and make the race more attractive for the crowd.
Mateelong Vs Mesfin?
Kenyan Richard Mateelong, reigning Olympic bronze medallist and World silver medallist in the 3000m steeplechase, will clash Ethiopian Hunegnaw Mesfin, one of the rising stars of the current cross country season.
Mesfin produced a major surprise on 10 January when he took a very narrow win over reigning World Cross Country champion Gebre-Egziabher Gebremariam at the Zornotza Cross Country race in Amorebieta thanks to a devastating final sprint. Mesfin turns 21 on 31st January and will be looking for a present on Sunday to celebrate his birthday.
In the World Cross Country Championships events Mesfin finished tenth in 2009 in Amman and eleventh in the junior race in the 2008 edition held in Edinburgh. On the track he finished fourth in the 10,000m at the World Junior Championships in Bydszgosz, the same venue which will host the next edition of the World Cross Country Championships and clocked a PB of 27:27.57 in Neerpelt (Belgium) in 2008.
The last Ethiopian winner in San Vittore Olona was the cross country legend Kenenisa Bekele who triumphed in 2002. Another ethiopian name to watch on Sunday afternoon will be Abere Chane who won the Cross della Vallagarina near Rovereto on 17 January. After Rovereto Chane, fifth at the World Junior Championships in the 10,000 metres, returned to Ethiopia to contest the Sululta Cross Country race (20km north of Ethiopian capital Addis Abeba) where he finished second.
Richard Mateelong ran the best race of his steeplechase career last summer in Berlin where he won the World silver medal behind his compatriot Ezekiel Kemboi in a lifetime best of 8:00.89. Mateelong will be looking to take the 12th win for Kenya in the long history of the Cinque Mulini. The last Kenyan who took the honours in the legendary Northern-Italian race was another major steeplechase runner Paul Kipsiele Koech who won the Cinque Mulini in 2006.
The European challenge will be led by Atelaw Bekele, a former Ethiopian who now represents Belgium, for which he won the bronze medal in the Under 23 race at the European Cross Country Championships in Dublin last December. The local interest will be focused on Stefano La Rosa, who finished 15th in the Senior race in Dublin contributing to the European Cross Country bronze medal for Italy, Gianmarco Buttazzo and the brothers Martin and Bernard Dematteis, also good Mountain Running specialists and marathon specialist Danilo Goffi (1998 European Marathon silver medallist in Budapest), who aims at taking part in next summer’s European Championships in Barcelona.
Twell takes on Olympic champion Lagat
This year’s Cinque Mulini will have a special significance as it marks the 40th anniversary of the women’s race which was held for the first time in 1971.
Kenyan Nancy Lagat will be the top name of the women’s race. The reigning 1500 metres Olympic champion will make a rare appearance in the cross country circuit on Sunday. She will take on triple European Junior Cross Country champion Stephanie Twell from Great Britain and Portugal’s Dulce Felix.
Lagat had a solid second-half of the 2009 track season in which she won the IAAF World Athletics Final in Thessaloniki last September and ran her first sub-2 minutes time (1:59.17) in Rovereto. In the history of the Cinque Mulini only three Kenyan women won the Italian classical race: Ester Kiplagat (1993), Alice Timbilil (2003) and Pauline Korikwang (2008).
Reigning 1500m World Junior champion Stephanie Twell will return to San Vittore Olona one year after her second place behind Aniko Kalovics. Twell will try to emulate the feats of her compatriot Rita Ridley who took the win in the inaugural edition repeating then her feat twice more in 1972 and 1974. Twell, who finished a distant eleventh in the Under 23 race at the European Cross Country Championships in Dublin, bounced back with a solid fifth place in a snowy IAAF Cross Country race in Edinburgh on 9 January.
She will not be the only Briton in the field which also features Charlotte Purdue, the European Junior Cross Country silver medallist in Brussels 2008. The European challenge will be also led by Portugal’s Dulce Felix, sixth in the individual European Cross Country Championships and team’s gold medallist in Dublin last December.
The top Italian name to watch will be junior Federica Bevilacqua who produced a major surprise when she finished fifth in the European Junior Cross Country Championships in Dublin and won the junior race of the Elgoibar Cross country race in Spain last Sunday.
The 2010 Cinque Mulini will be dedicated to the memory of Tino Olgiati, the late President of the local Unione Sportiva San Vittore Olona who died last August.
Diego Sampaolo for the IAAF