Ebuya and Korikwiang make a Kenyan double in Amorebieta
Amorebieta, Spain - Kenya’s reigning World Cross Country champion Joseph Ebuya and his countrywoman Pauline Korikwiang captured the victories at the ‘57th Cross Internacional Zornotza’ on Sunday (9).
On a rainy but not particularly cold day (temperature 10ºC), the 23-year-old Ebuya managed an overwhelming advantage of no less than 40 seconds over Vincent Chepkok, also of Kenya, while Korikwiang out-sprinted her compatriot Doris Changeiywo.
Third time lucky for Ebuya – Men’s race
A still 19-year-old grabbed a fine third place in Amorebieta back in 2007 and he improved the following year by claiming second behind Tariku Bekele. With these precedents, Ebuya’s only target seemed clear yesterday when the race got underway and the Kenyan ace didn’t let anyone down.
Barely one minute after the gun Ebuya took command of the pace but the powerful African contingent assembled managed to run at his shoulder for some kilometres. The leading pack comprised up to six Kenyans in the guise of the reigning Olympic 10,000m bronze medallist Micah Kogo, the World Junior 10,000m champion Dennis Masai, the 2007 World Junior XC silver medallist Vincent Chepkok, the 2008 World Junior XC bronze medallist Lucas Rotich, Mark Kiptoo and the leader Ebuya.
After three opening kilometres in the 3:00 region Ebuya decided to inject a brisker rhythm and killed the race with a couple of kilometres covered in 2:52 and 2:53 on the wet and ondulating circuit which was the venue of the 1993 World Cross Country championships.
With the clock reading 12 minutes it became clear that, barring disaster, Ebuya would be the eventual winner as he had built a sizeable margin on the chasing triumvirate composed by Chepkok, Rotich and Kiptoo.
The Basque country’s athletics fans have a well-earned reputation as one of the most knowledgeable crowds in Spain. They had yesterday the opportunity of witnessing the impressive solo run of an in-form Ebuya for nearly twenty minutes. The Nyahururu-native increased gradually his advantage to romp home absolutely unopposed with a huge 40-second gap over the runner-up.
In the fight for that second spot Chepkok took some revenge from Rotich in a close sprint finish (32:07-32:08) as the latter had taken the win at the Venta de Baños permit held three weeks ago just ahead of him.
The Kenyan athletes monopolised the first six places while France’s El-Mokhtar Benhari was the first European home in ninth. To give an idea of Ebuya’s frantic pace it should be mentioned that the Frenchman finished a creditable 10th in December’s European championships in Albufeira but he nearly lost three minutes (!) on the Kenyan yesterday.
A more than pleased Ebuya, who had just taken his third consecutive win on Spanish soil this cross country season (Soria, Alcobendas, Amorebieta) declared: “Today I’m enormously happy as I consider Amorebieta as one of the top cross country races in the world and I managed to win today for the first time. The line-up assembled was of the highest quality and so I decided to push hard from the beginning. I now have the world title and the Amorebieta win, I feel like a Grand-Slam victor.” Next up for Ebuya is the Cross Internacional de Italica in Seville on Sunday.
Korikwiang’s sprint finish prevail - Women’s race
The 6.7km women's contest became a neck-to-neck fight between the two pre-race favourites, the Kenyan pair of the former (2006) World Junior Cross Country champion Pauline Korikwiang and her fellow Kenyan Doris Changeiywo, a creditable fourth at the 2008 World Cross Country championships.
With barely five minutes on the clock that duo already led the race with ease thanks to a relentless pace in the 3:24-3:26 region which proved to be too tough for the rest of the pack headed by Morocco’s Btissam Lakhouad.
With the Kenyan couple taking turns at the forefront the question mark of who would be the winner only ruled in favour of the long-legged Korikwiang on the closing 300m when her devastating late burst of speed couldn’t be matched by Changeiywo, who slowed down her pace once beaten to finish four second adrift the winner, 22:48-22:52 their respective times.
Spain’s relatively unheralded Gema Barrachina (a 31:54.64 10,000m performer) was a surprise third 31 seconds behind Korikwiang and had the reward of sharing the podium with the two world-class Kenyans.
A joyful Korikwiang declared: “It has been a tough race because of the rain throughout. Luckily, I felt strong over the final home straight and was able to unsleash my attack.”
Emeterio Valiente for the IAAF
Men (10.7Km) -
1. Joseph Ebuya (Ken) 31:27
2. Vincent Chepkok (Ken) 32:07
3. Lucas Rotich (Ken) 32:08
4. Mark Kiptoo (Ken) 32:20
5. Mica Kogo (Ken) 32:48
6. Dennis Masai (Ken) 33:06
7. Amanuel Messel (Eri) 33:11
8. Cutberth Nyasango (Zim) 33:45
9. El-Mokhtar Benhari (Fra) 34:24
10. Youness Ati Hadi (Mor) 34:25
Women (6.7Km) -
1. Pauline Korikwiang (Ken) 22:48
2. Doris Changeiywo (Ken) 22:52
3. Gema Barrachina (Esp) 23:19
4. Btissam Lakhouad (Mor) 23:24
5. Jacqueline Martín (Esp) 23:29
6. Frehiwat Goshu (Eti) 23:44
7. Irene Alfonso (Esp) 23:57
8. Aicha Bani (Mor) 24:10
9. Edem Tesfalem (Eri) 24:14
10. Marisa Casanueva (Esp) 24:16