Kenenisa Bekele, the only male athlete to win both long and short distance at a world cross country (in Dublin 2002), confirmed expectations and won, on Sunday morning in Oeiras, the first IAAF Cross Country of the season. With an amazing performance Bekele lead the race from the beginning and reached the finish line 200 m ahead of Hilary Chenonge, 5000 m world junior champion in Jamaica.
Running the 9km course in 24:05 he easily dominated the race, leaving behind all the Kenyan opponents. The well known Patrick Ivuti (KEN), far from his best performances, ended up in sixth (24:54).
“I had no difficulties at the race, and this was a very good victory for me, which might indicate a very good season”, said the 20 years old winner.
This was a race with two different story lines. First there were the African athletes (Kenyan and Ethiopian), who assured the first eight positions; then the Europeans, being first the Slovakian Robert Stefko (9º, 25:09), followed by the Portuguese José Ramos (10º, 25:11) and Paulo Guerra (11º, 25:14) – four times European champion and bronze medallist at the world championships in 1999.
In the women’s event, Leah Malot confirmed her last year victory, finishing the 5 km in 16:01, eight seconds from the Portuguese Helena Sampaio (16:09). The most experienced Leah, 30 years old, easily left behind the closest adversaries. Analídia Torre POR was third (16:22), completing the podium.
“I always go for the best possible result, but we never know how the others will be. Last year was difficult for me to win because there were a lot more Kenyan athletes…” explained Leah.
Results VODAFONE CROSS INTERNACIONAL DE OEIRAS – JAMOR (OEIRAS), 17/11/2002
Men (9 km) 1º Kenenisa Bekele ETI 24:05, 2º Hillary Chenonge KEN 24:29, 3º Mike Kipyego KEN 24:34, 4º Moses Mosop KEN 24:35, 5º Dagne Alemu ETI 24:44, 6º Patrick Ivuti KEN 24:54, 7º David Kilel 25:00 KEN, 8º Hosea Kogo KEN 25:07, 9º Robert Stefko SLK 25:09, 10º José Ramos POR 25:11.
Women (5 km) 1º Leah Malot KEN 16:01, 2º Helena Sampaio POR 16:09, 3º Analídia Torre POR 16:22, 4º Beata Rakonczai HUN 16:28, 5º Carla Sacramento 16:37, 6º Inês Monteiro POR 16:40, 7º Natalia Volgina RUS 16:42, 8º Fátima Cabral POR 16:44, 9º Elisabete Lopes POR 16:53, 10º Adélia Elias POR 16:56.