Luanda, Angola - Ethiopia’s Atsedu Tesfaye closed his racing year on a high note by winning the 57th Sao Silvestre de Luanda in front of over a million spectators who lined the streets of the Angolan capital on Monday (31).
“It was a great race, the time was not the fastest but it was very hot compared with last year,” said the Ethiopian, who won over the 10km course in 28:17.
The gun set off over 1000 runners while above the digital thermometer on the nearby office block registered 30 degrees and the 72% humidity made for uncomfortable conditions not only for the runners but also the vast numbers of spectators lining the entire course from the City Hall to the Stadium at the waterfront.
Tesfaye was second to Eritrea’s Zersenay Tadesse last year but the 2012 Prague Half Marathon winner in a national record of 58:47 quickly left little doubt that he wanted to go one better on the last day of 2012.
A large pack charged up the initial climbs to pass through the first kilometre in 2:37 but the following drop and then steep gain of over 80 metres in the next two kilometres saw a few men dropping from contention. As the route flattened out, it was Kenya’s Alex Korio who tested the pace, with Tesfaye quick to respond.
The contenders passed through 4km in 13:05, which prompted Tesfaye and Korio to drop into another gear again and the pair opened up a 15-metre gap, which was never to be challenged, with the Ethiopian pair of 2012 World junior 10000m champion Yigrem Demelash and Mosinet Bayih, the 2011 Great Ethiopian run winner, the only ones attempting to close the gap.
Tesfaye and Korio shared the workload but shortly before 8km, Korio flashed the Ethiopian a telling look and Tesfaye then used the steep decent to the promenade to pull away.
A further kick as he hit the finishing flat stretch saw the Ethiopian secure his victory to cross the stadium line in 28:17.
Korio was 60 metres adrift but overjoyed with his performance.
“I am ecstatic,” said the 22–year-old Kenyan. “The pace dropped at the top of the climb. I had wanted a fast time so I knew I had to push but only Atsedu came with me. This surprised me; I expected more to come with us. It wasn’t planned to run with him but I’m really happy to come second”
With Demelash dropping out, Kibet Kosgei’s more conservative early pace allowed him finish strongly and overhaul Bayih for third place in 28:31.
The quality of the field was such that, despite the adverse weather conditions, seven runners broke 29 minutes and the top 18 were under the 30-minute barrier. Top 10 honours were equally shared between Kenyan and Ethiopian athletes.
Victory was more clear-cut in the women’s race where Kenya's Priscah Jeptoo, a silver medallist at both the 2011 IAAF World Championships and London 2012 Olympic Games, took the tape in 32:31. Kipkoech Chepkorir and Mercy Jerotich finished in 32:43 and 32:58 respectively to give Kenya a clean sweep of the podium.
The race is the largest and oldest in Angola, with a total purse of over US$145000 and US$15000 for first place.The event has been held every year since its inception in 1954 with the exceptions of 1961 and 1978.
Norrie Williamson for the IAAF
Leading results (10km):
1. Atsedu Tesfaye (ETH) 28:17
2. Alex Korio (KEN) 28:30
3. Kibet Kosgei (KEN) 28:32
4. Mosinet Bayih (ETH) 28:42
5. Abraham Kipsigei (KEN) 28:48
6. Birhan Nebebew (ETH) 28:48
1. Priscah Jeptoo (KEN) 32:31
2. Kipkoech Chepkorir (KEN) 32:43
3. Mercy Jerotich (KEN) 32:58
4. Alice Mogire (KEN) 33:06
5. Azemra Gebru (ETH) 33:17
6. Mekasha Waganesh (ETH) 33:28