All smiles - Zersenay Tadese smashing the World Record in the Half Marathon in Lisbon (Marcelino Almeida) © Copyright
Tadese against the Spanish armada – Men’s race
The slightly downhill 10km race features Eritrea’s reigning World Half Marathon record holder Zersenay Tadese in the leading role. The 28-year-old Madrid-based star last raced at the IAAF World Half Marathon championships in Nanning on 16 October when he could not retain his title having to settle for the silver medal behind Kenya’s Wilson Kiprop.
Tadese suffered a calf muscle injury with six kilometre left in Nanning but he was still able to keep on running to make the podium in 1:00:15. It the took him one month to be fully recovered as he resumed his trainings in mid-November.
After a 20-day stint in his native Eritrea, Tadese arrived in Madrid on 28 December ready to take the win on his second appearance at the event. Back in 2006 he came tantalizingly close to the victory but the win went to Kenya’s Eliud Kipchoge, both athletes being credited with an impressive 26:54 time.
At the official press conference held earlier today (30 Dec.) the Jerónimo Bravo-coached ace said: “I now feel recovered from the injury but my only target for tomorrow is to win the race.”
Trying to take advantage of Tadese’s question mark fitness will be a strong local contingent led by the reigning European Cross Country silver medallist Ayad Lamdassem and Jesús España, the current European 5000m silver medallist. In addition, World indoor 3000m runner-up Sergio Sánchez and the European Marathon silver medal holder Chema Martínez will also be in contention.
The Moroccan-born Lamdassem is a 27:45.58 10,000m specialist on the track, and has scheduled his Marathon debut for next April and should be in the fight for the win until the closing stages on Friday night while España’s long-standing dream of becoming a San Silvestre winner in his hometown might be closer than ever on this occasion as the 32-year-old is a renowned road specialist who already finished runner-up back in 2001.
The 39-year-old Martínez was the last Spanish victor in 2003 and showed reasonably good form at the Venta de Baños XC permit last 19 December while Sánchez targets the 3000m indoor season but has proved to be in fine form recently by taking third at the Yecla Cross Country contest on 19 December too.
Can Augusto maintain momentum? - Women's race
Portugal’s newly-minted European Cross Country champion is the standout attraction among the women’s line-up. The 29-year-old managed to be the first junior champion – an accolade she grabbed in 2000 – to taste senior victory on home soil of Albufeira earlier this month.
Since then, the European 10,000m bronze medallist has placed sixth at the IAAF Cross Country permit in Brussels on 19 December – when she furiously accelerated on the penultimate lap in the wrong belief that was the last one – to bounce back thanks to a couple of wins in a row at two Sao Silvestre races held in Lisbon on Sunday 26 (10km in 31:52) and Funchal (6km in 18:46) as recently as last Tuesday (28).
Augusto’s stiffest opponent should be the 33-year-old Russian Liliya Shobukhova who set an impressive NR of 2:20:25 in the Marathon event to take a commanding win in Chicago last 10 October. Shobukova also holds a remarkable 30:29.36 10,000 performance on the track.
Spanish hopes will rest on European 1500m champion Nuria Fernández, fresh from a runner-up spot at the Venta de Baños XC race.
The Portuguese declared earlier today: “I consider the three of us (Shobukova, Fernández and myself) capable of taking the win tomorrow. I haven’t too much information about the race as it will be my first time competing here but I’m looking forward to competing in Madrid.”
Weather forecasters predict a cloudy night on Friday with 95% of rain likely with temperatures ranging from 7º and 9ºC by race time.
Emeterio Valiente for the IAAF
- All smiles - Zersenay Tadese smashing the World Record in the Half Marathon in Lisbon (Marcelino Almeida) © Copyright
- Lilya Shobukhova breaks the Russian record in Chicago 2010 (Getty Images) © Copyright
- Jessica Augusto takes the 2010 European Cross Country title (Hasse Sjogren / DECA Text&Bild) © Copyright