03 OCT 2013 Preview Ljubljana, Slovenia

Teklay and Kosovelj poised to win overall series at WMRA Grand Prix final in Ljubljana

Slovenia's Mateja Kosovelj in action at the 2012 WMRA Grand Prix in Smarna Gora (WMRA)Slovenia's Mateja Kosovelj in action at the 2012 WMRA Grand Prix in Smarna Gora (WMRA) © Copyright

The International Smarna Gora Mountain Running Race remains one of the highlights of the mountain running season, and the WMRA Grand Prix in Ljubljana will continue its rich tradition on 5 October.

In the autumn of 1979, running enthusiasts from the Slovenian capital decided to organise a race to the top of Smarna Gora, one of the most popular mountains in the country. No one at the time envisaged that it would become such a massive event with worldwide popularity.

In the early 1990s the event was the first national championships in the new state of Slovenia. Later that decade, World champion Lucio Fregona of Italy made the Smarna Gora race an internationally recognised event.

After the millennium, it became one of the founding races of the WMRA Grand Prix and since then it has hosted the Grand Prix final on eleven occasions.

In the last 33 years many medallists from the World Mountain Running Championships have been tested on the demanding course that takes runners 360m uphill to the first summit, followed by 300m of technical descent before a 300m climb to the finish.

The overall WMRA Grand Prix champions will be crowned this Saturday at this magnificent mountain peak. The top women include World champion Alice Gaggi of Italy and home favourite Mateja Kosovelj, who took fourth place at the World Championships and currently leads the Grand Prix rankings.

Gaggi’s Italian team-mate Antonella Confortola, the 2013 WMRA World Long Distance Challenge winner, will also try to earn a spot on the podium. Slovenia’s Lea Eifalt, the World Junior Championships silver medallist, is also expected to be a factor.

In the men’s event, Alex Baldaccini returns to defend his Smarna Gora title from 2012. Strong Eritrean team members will test their skills on the Smarna gora course also this year, including three time World silver medallist Teklay Azeria. He currently leads the WMRA Grand Prix standings and will do his best to improve his second place from 2012.

His fellow Eritrean Tekle Yossief, the 2010 World junior champion will try to repeat his successful runs on Slovenian soil, while Mitja Kosovelj of Slovenia is well positioned to offer a strong challenge as he knows the course well.

Italian pair Abate Gabriel and Manzi Emanuelle also stand a chance of making the podium, while Switzerland’s Davide Schneider is on the comeback trail. Eight of the top nine men in the current Grand Prix rankings will be present.

Tomo Sarf (WMRA) for the IAAF