MonteCarloFollowing their men’s team victory in last December’s European Cross Country Championships, Spain will be aiming for similar success at next weekend’s 31st IAAF World Cross Country Championships in Lausanne (29-30 March), despite acknowledging the challenge posed by the powerful African teams from Kenya, Ethiopia and Morocco.
Significantly, in Birmingham at the recent 9th IAAF World Indoor championships in Athletics (14-16 March), it was Spain’s distance runners who took the battle to the Ethiopian favourites in the men’s and women’s 3000m.
Ultimately, Haile Gebrselassie and Berhane Adere had an answer to the Spanish tactics, leaving European champions Alberto Garcia and Marta Dominguez with silver medals.
But regardless of this set back, the reality is that if Spain or any other team is going to better the Africans for any of the World Cross Country team titles in Lausanne, then just as Sergiy Lebid, Paula Radcliffe, Deena Drossin and Sonia O’Sullivan have shown on an individual level in recent years, they must not allow them to dictate race tactics.
In Lausanne, the Spanish charge for gold will be focused on the two men’s races with Alberto García (silver) and Jesús España (fourth) fresh from their 3000m success in Birmingham, joining a powerful team list which includes Spanish long course champion Fabián Roncero, José Manuel Martínez, the European 10,000m champion, and European Marathon bronze medallist, Julio Rey.
Emeterio Valiente our correspondent in Spain gives his detailed summary of the Spainish team -
In the long race the Spanish contingent will be led by Fabián Roncero who is currently training at high altitude (3718m) in the Teide mountains (Canary Islands) building up for the Rotterdam Marathon to be held on April 13. Actually, Roncero and José Ríos the European 10,000m European medallist will return from their training camp next Thursday just in time to travel to Lausanne on Friday.
“I have heard that when competing on the first three days after an altitude stage that there are no negative effects. That’s the reason why we will delay our arrival in Lausanne,” confirmed the 32-year-old Roncero. “I originally thought I would not perform in Lausanne (as he is concentrating on the Rotterdam marathon) but as I am the Spanish champion, and we have a powerful group, I must be there.”
The reigning 10,000m European champion José Manuel Martínez is also optimistic about the chances of Spain taking team medals.
“We have placed 4th in 1999, 2000 and 2001 and it’s time now to make the top three again; let’s hope the circuit suits us, as we need a dry surface to run at our best,” said Martínez.
Alongside Roncero and Ríos, Martínez will also run the Rotterdam marathon in three weeks time and declares: “I have been running 200 kilometres weekly for the last two months and I only need to rest a bit”.
The 2002 European Marathon bronze medallist Julio Rey will also be in the Lausanne line-up. Rey, who came 9th at the World Cross when it was held in Turin six years ago has his own Marathon ambitions and will be the undisputed favourite for the Hamburg race on 27 April. The 31-year-old Spaniard won there in 2001, clocking a PB of 2:07:46.
Spain has accomplished three team bronze medals in the long race (1990/Aix Les Bains, 1991/Amberes, 1995/Durham) in the 30 year history of the IAAF World Cross Country Championships.
The Spanish men’s short course squad has even greater ambitions in Lausanne, given that they are led by Alberto García, fresh from his World Indoor 3000m silver medal.
“Last year I came 17th after a frantic start; this time I will run more prudently and I will rank much better for sure” says a confident García, the reigning European Indoor 3000m and outdoor 5000m champion. “I am proud of having been runner-up to Haile Gebrselassie in Birmingham because my loss came against the best ‘Gebre’, as he had run 7:28 earlier in the season, only two seconds off his lifetime best.”
Jesús España, who placed fourth in Birmingham at 3000m clocking a PB of 7:42.70, thinks that “Spain could even become team silver medallists but the Kenyans seem unreachable. A dry, firm and secure surface would be an advantage for me. My pre-race favourite is the last year’s runner-up Kenya’s Luke Kipkosgei,” confirms the 24-year-old España, who missed the bronze medal in Birmingham by just 14 hundredths of a second.
Yousef El Nasri, the current European U23 3000m record holder (7:39.80) will also be in contention, and his performance will be of crucial importance in Spain’s medal pursuit.
Spain took the bronze medal in the men’s short course race last year in Dublin, behind Kenya and Ethiopia.
On the women’s side, both the national champions Iris Fuentes-Pila (short race) and marathoner María Abel (long race) will lead the Spanish squads, as World Indoor 3000m silver medallist Marta Domínguez, the European indoor 3000m and outdoor 5000m champion has decided not to take part in Lausanne.
Emeterio Valiente for the IAAF
Spanish team for Lausanne
Men’s long race: Fabián Roncero, José Manuel Martínez, Enrique Molina, Eliseo Martín, Julio Rey, José Ríos.
Women’s long race: María Abel, Rocío Ríos, Beatriz Santiago, Laura Pinela, Alessandra Aguilar, Luisa Larrraga.
Men’s short race: Alberto García, Jesús España, Yousef El Nasri, Sergio Gallardo, Antonio Martínez, José Luis Blanco.
Women’s short race: Iris Fuentes-Pila, Rocío Martínez, Cristina Petite, Amaia Piedra, Zulema Fuentes-Pila, Sonia Bejarano.
Junior men: Alejandro González, Marc Roig, Francisco España, Joaquín Carlús, Arkaitz Nogales, José Antonio Molina.
Junior women: Isabel Macías, Mónica Gutiérrez, Maica Rodríguez, Marta Fernández, Miriam Ortiz, Marta Romo.
Spanish Cross Country Championships – 9 March 2003
Men’s Long race(12,276m)
1 Fabián Roncero 38:20
2 José Manuel Martínez 38:27
3 Enrique Molina 38:31
4 Eliseo Martín 38:36
5 Julio Rey 38:46
6 Antonio Peña 38:48
7 Juan Carlos de la Ossa 39:08
8 Iván Sánchez 39:15
9 Ignacio Cáceres 39:19
10 José Ríos 39:27
Men’s Short race (3943m)
1 Yousef El Nasri 11:24
2 Sergio Gallardo 11:25
3 Antonio Martínez 11:28
4 Reyes Estévez 11:30
5 José Luis Blanco 11:33
6 Isaac Viciosa 11:34
7 Pablo Villalobos 11:37
8 Hicham Lamalem (MAR) 11:43
9 Manuel Núñez 11:44
10 Fermín Cacho 11:45
Women's Long race (7973m)
1 María Abel 27:46
2 Yesenia Centeno (Cuba) 27:50
3 Rocío Ríos 27:53
4 Beatriz Santiago 28:05
5 Laura Pinela 28:09
Women's Short race (3943m)
1 Iris Fuentes-Pila 13:36
2 Rocío Martínez 13:39
3 Cristina Petite 13:40
4 Luisa Larraga 13:49
5 Rosa Morató 13:51