Yonas Kifle of Eritrea at the 2005 World Half Marathon Championships (Getty Images) © Copyright
General News Soria, Spain

East Africa versus Spanish armada in Soria on Sunday

Some of the international cross country crème has been assembled for the ‘13th Cross Internacional de Soria’ - EAA Permit meeting - which takes place this Sunday (19).

The men’s race will be contested over 9000m and should be a battle between the Eritrean pair of Yonas Kifle and Ali Abdallah and Kenya’s Simon Arusei. This trio finished in the top-ten in the long race at this year’s World Cross Country Championships and will look to accomplish a podium sweep for east Africa despite the presence of many of the Spanish leading specialists.

Kifle and Abdallah returned on Wednesday from Eritrea to their European base in Madrid. Abdallah has remained in his country since his European track campaign, topped by a 5000m 13:10.71 performance on the Spanish soil of Huelva, while Kifle took part at the inaugural IAAF World Road Running Championship in Debrecen last month where he finished a respectable 10th, clocking 57:49 over the 20km distance. Unfortunately for the local crowd, they won’t be a accompanied by his countryman Zersenay Tadesse, winner in Soria in 2004, since the Olympic 10,000m bronze medallist and 20km World champion has opted instead for Sunday’s Nijmegen 15km race in The Netherlands.

Trying to deny the Eritreans top spot on this occasion will be Kenya’s Arusei, who has already two wins to his credit on his autumn European tour, the Great South Run in Portsmouth, UK on 22 October and at the Quintanar cross country race.

Spanish trials for the European Championships begin

This Sunday’s race, along with Llodio IAAF Permit race on 26 November, will be decisive for Spanish athletes to gain selection for the European Cross Country Championships to be held in San Giorgio Su Legnano, Italy on 10 December. The usually powerful Spanish cross country contingent comprises of four medallists from last summer’s European Athletics Championships in Gothenburg: 5000m champion Jesús España, 10,000m silver medallist José Manuel “Chema” Martínez, 3000m Steeplechase silver medallist José Luis Blanco, and Marathon bronze medallist Julio Rey.

Martínez is fresh from an easy win at last Sunday’s low-key 20km road race called ‘Behobia-San Sebastián’ (1:03:01) while former European 3000m steeplechase champion Antonio Jiménez recorded a fine and tight cross country victory in Torredonjimeno, Spain last weekend ahead of his countryman Carlos Castillejo. These two in-form Spaniards will also be competing in Soria looking for a berth in the Spanish team. Other well-known athletes such as Eliseo Martín, Alberto García and Arturo Casado are also in the line-up.

European champion España kicks off 2006-07 season

España, the only Spanish male gold medallist on the track event in Gothenburg, will be making his first appearance on this cross country campaign.

“After my World Cup 3000m outing and the subsequent brief rest, I only resumed my training sessions six weeks ago so I’m far from my peak, obviously,” España said. “Anyway, I hope to perform well and a reasonable target would be a top-ten spot. Several of my fellow Spaniards are in better shape now and ‘Chema’ Martínez might be the first non-African on Sunday. Definitely I won’t be contesting the European Cross Country championships in three week’s time, it comes too early for me, but maybe next year I’ll make a specific build-up for it as it will take place in Spain.”

Cheruiyot versus Chelangat in the women’s race

The women’s race will be held over 6km and will witness a likely clash between Kenya’s Vivian Cheruiyot and Alice Chelagat. The former placed eighth in the short race at the last World Cross, while the 30-year-old Chelangat  was tenth on that occasion in the long race and will be on show on Spanish soil for the second time this month following a second place behind Ethiopia’s Wude Ayalew Yimer in Quintanar (5 November).

Spain’s Rosa Morató, who came third in Quintanar and runner-up in Torredonjimeno will lead the European charge while China’s Guiying Bao (18th in Fukuoka) and Xiaoqin Dong should also be in the top-five hunt.

Among the illustrious winners in previous years in Soria include: Ethiopia’s 2000 Olympic 5000m champion Million Wolde (1997), Kenya’s 2001 World 10,000m champion Charles Kamathi (2002), and his compatriot Sally Barsosio who took the 10,000m gold medal at the 1997 Worlds in Athens.

Weather forecasters predict a partly cloudy but not particularly cold day with temperatures in the range of 8-15 º Celsius.

Emeterio Valiente for the IAAF