The Netherlands’ Sifan Hassan confirmed her status as one of the rising stars of distance running on Sunday (22) when she won the women’s 6km race at the Iris Lotto Crosscup in Brussels, the last IAAF Cross Country Permit meeting of 2013.
The European under-23 cross-country champion came home in 19:38 on the energy-sapping muddy course at the Park van Laeken in the Belgian capital, which was the venue for the 2004 IAAF World Cross Country Championships and 2008 European Cross Country Championships.
She pulled away from her opponents in the last 200 metres and finished five seconds clear of her nearest rival Zewdnesh Ayele, the Ethiopian just edging out Ireland’s 2011 and 2012 European cross-country champion Fionnuala Britton, who was one second further back in third place.
Local star Almensh Belete produced the best Belgian result in the two international races but was a distant fourth in 20:16.
Belete was the early leader after the first of four 1.5km laps with four women in her wake – Hassan, Ayele, Britton and Kenya's Cynthia Kosgei – but Britton, who finished second in Brussels 12 months ago, started to push the pace from the start of the second lap. Belete and Kosgei soon were struggling to hang on, drifting away from the leading trio by the halfway point.
Britton continued to lead for much of the second half of the race but was caught short of speed in the final few hundred metres.
"It was a tough race," reflected Hassan. "The course is really heavy, but as a 1500m runner I knew I had the speed to be the fastest at the end, so I did everything to stay up front and fortunately it worked."
Hassan announced that her long-term ambition is to double at the 1500m and 5000m at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio
The men’s race over 10.5km produced a win for Kenya’a Belgium-based Alex Kibet, who triumphed in a sprint finish with Bahrain’s Albert Rop.
Kibet, second in Brussels 12 months ago but who got his second consecutive win on Belgian soil in little more than a month after winning in Mol on 3 November, crossed the line in 30:40 with Rop two seconds in arrears.
Another Kenyan, Amos Mitei, finished third in 30:49.
The top European finisher was Great Britain’s Andy Vernon, who took the bronze medal at the recent European Cross Country Championships but on this occasion had to settle for sixth place in 31:25.
Phil Minshull for the IAAF