30 DEC 2011 Preview Madrid, Spain

Spotlight on Dibaba and Medhin in Madrid – San Silvestre Vallecana PREVIEW

2008 double Olympic champion Tirunesh Dibaba (Getty Images)2008 double Olympic champion Tirunesh Dibaba (Getty Images) © Copyright

The 47th ‘San Silvestre Vallecana’ – an IAAF Silver Label Road Race – will be held on the evening of New Year’s eve (31). In addition to the elite contest, there will be a massive 38,000-entrants race to be held two and a half hours before the main event.


Medhin-Lamdassem showdown – Men’s race


The slightly downhill 10km race features Eritrea’s 2010 World Cross Country silver medallist Teklemariam Medhin as the leading athlete. The 22-year-old Madrid-based star last raced at a 5000m event in Barcelona last July and should be eager to make his winter debut in Madrid as he hasn’t competed yet in the Cross Country campaign so far as had become his usual start in the previous years.


Reportedly, Medhin is in reasonable good form. “I have had an injury and also  some problems to get my visa to travel abroad but I arrived in Spain two days ago and I’m ready to do well tomorrow.” Asked about the time he expects for the race Medhin was cautious. “It depends on the weather and the pace other athletes set. If it’s not very cold and someone dictates a brisk rhythm, I’m prepared to run fast, otherwise my only target will be to win.”


Spain’s twice European Cross Country silver medallist Ayad Lamdassem will likely offer the toughest opposition. The 30-year-old took his second silver in a row in Velenje earlier this month and kept his momentum the following week with a fine second place behind Kenya’s Philemon Kimeli Limo at the Venta de Baños XC permit.


Lamdassem will try to make amends from his mistake last year: he had a seven-second advantage on Eritrea’s Zersenay Tadese with some 1000m left when the Moroccan-born athlete kept on straight ahead by mistake instead of taking a right bend which enabled Tadese to catch and pass him.


The Spaniard is now in his build-up for his Marathon debut which will take place in Otsu on 4 March. A third African-born athlete will be in contention in the guise of  Bati Mohamed Burka, who is Gelete Burka’s brother.


Reigning European 5000m and Marathon silver medallists Jesús España and Chema Martínez respectively should fight for the minor place on the podium, the latter being the last victorious Spaniard here back in 2003. España’s best performance came in 2001 when he managed the runner-up spot behind the then European 5000m champion Isaac Viciosa.


Tirunesh Dibaba to make anticipated comeback


The big news will be the return of Ethiopia’s double (5000 & 10,000m) reigning Olympic champion Tirunesh Dibaba after a couple of years hampered by injuries. The 26-year-old made history in Beijing by landing the 5000 and 10,000m gold medals, an accomplishment that no woman had ever before achieved. Dibaba last competed at the Samsung Diamond League meet in London over 5000m on 13 August 2010 so her current kind of fitness remains a question mark.


At the pre-race press conference Dibaba said, “It’s my first time in Madrid. I know the first eight kilometres are very fast but the remaining two are up-hill, I’ll take it into account thinking of my tactic. I really don’t know what kind of performance I can achieve tomorrow, let’s see what happens.”


Dibaba’s fellow Ethiopian Gelete Burka is the other marquee female athlete in Madrid. The 25-year-old took 1500m gold at the 2008 World indoors held on the Spanish soil of Valencia and is a consistent sub-4:00 specialist for the distance but her performance over the scheduled 10,000m still remains to be seen.  


Burka, a former World Cross Country short course champion, declared, “It’s my first long distance race for the last three years but even so I hope to perform well.”


The Spanish contingent includes the reigning European 3000m steeplechase silver medallist Marta Domínguez and two Marathon specialists, Alessandra Aguilar and Vanessa Veiga, fresh from a fine win at the Spanish Marathon championships last 12 December in Castellón on her debut for the distance.  


Weather forecasters predict a cloudy night on Friday with no rain likely with temperatures ranging between 7ºC and 9ºC by the time of the event.


Emeterio Valiente for the IAAF


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