Ana Dulce Felix takes the victory at the Almond Blossom XC, along with her first national title (Marcelino Almeida) © Copyright
General News Lisbon, Portugal

Bett and Felix take Almond Blossom XC titles

Mark Bett produced a guntotape victory at the 33rd Algarve International Almond Blossom Cross Country, the final meeting of the IAAF 2010 Cross Country Permit series.

The rain, which affected the junior races, took a break when the senior runners took to the start line, making things that much easier for Bett and women’s winner Ana Dulce Felix.

The Kenyan took the lead from start to collect his first victory in the Algarve.

Behind him, there was a dramatic fight between some of best Portuguese runners vying for the national team and individual titles. Two teams struggled for the title – Conforlimpa, who was third in the European Clubs Cross Country Cup, and Maratona, and this fight made all the difference in the final results.

In second place, and taking the Portuguese title, was Yousef El Kalai, a former Moroccan and now a Portuguese citizen, who arrived in Portugal a few years ago and represented several clubs here. Athletics was his second choice in life until last year, when he decided to dedicate himself to athletics full time. El Kalai crossed the finish line 14 seconds after Mark Bett.

After El Kalai, three of his teammates followed: Helder, Manuel Damião and Licinio. Ten seconds after Pimentel, former two-time national champion Fernando Silva was next, followed by José Rocha, the runner-up last year.

Only after them came the second foreign invited athlete, Norwegian Sondre Nordstat Moen, a former cross country skier who took the 2006 European title in his former sport.

In the teams competition, Conforlimpa took a strong win, with six runners among the first 10 finishers.

Portuguese dominate women’s race

As expected the women’s race was totally controlled by Portuguese. Midway through the race, Ana Dulce Felix, who was sixth at December’s European championships, took the lead and remained there for good to claim her first national title.

Sara Moreira, another of the favourites, was next, but well back 33 seconds adrift. Thirty five-year-old Ana Dias, who is from the Algarve, finished third.

Another seven behind was the first international, Hungarian Aniko Kalovics, to finish fourth, four seconds ahead of Poland’s Katarzyna Kowalska.

Two additional notes about this race: former Olympic, World and European 10,000 m champion, Fernanda Ribeiro, who is now 40, was sixth among the Portuguese and may be selected to the national team for the IAAF World Cross Country Championship in Bydgoszcz, Poland, later this month. Noteworthy too was the 14th place finish of Vanessa Fernandes, the Olympic Triathlon silver medallist.

António Manuel Fernandes for the IAAF

Leading Results -

1. Mark Bett KEN          35.20
2. Yousef El Kalai POR    35.34
3. Hélder Ornelas POR     35.38
4. Manuel Damião POR      35.43
5. Licínio Pimentel POR   35.45
6. Fernando Silva POR     35.53
7. José Rocha POR         36.17
8. Sondre Moen NOR        36.29
9. Ricardo Ribas POR      36.39
10. Paulo Gomes POR       36.44

1. Ana Dulce Félix POR          26.09
2. Sara Moreira POR             26.42
3. Ana Dias POR                 26.50
4. Aniko Kalovics HUN           26.57
5. Katarzyna Kowalska POL       27.01
6. Mónica Rosa POR              27.12
7. Elizaveta Grechishnikova RUS 27.20
8. Anália Rosa POR              27.21
9. Fernanda Ribeiro POR         27.32
10. Ksenia Agafanova RUS        27.35