Spain’s reigning European Cross Country silver medallist Juan Carlos de la Osa will not contest the 32nd IAAF World Cross Country Championships to be held in Brussels next weekend. The 27-year-old suffered a stress fracture on his left foot last week which will keep him inactive for some days.
De la Ossa had taken an overwhelming win at the Spanish Championships (29 February) with a handsome margin of 40 seconds over last year’s 3000m European Cup runner-up Carlos Castillejo, while the young Ricardo Serrano came third another 12 seconds adrift.
The Spanish champion declared: “It’s a shame because I was now in better shape than I was when I took the silver medal at the Europeans in Edinburgh and I had targeted a place among the first 15 in Brussels. I’ll also miss the 10,000m European Challenge in Maribor (Slovenia, 3 April ) where I had planned to reach the qualifying standard for the Athens Olympics (27:49).”
Now I’ll take some quiet time in terms of training before resuming hard training to get that standard. My debut on the track could come in Hengelo but it’s not for sure as it could be too early in the season for me”.
Asked on Bekele’s new assault to the World Cross Country titles, the Spaniard said, “my impression is that Bekele will only compete in the long race. This is an Olympic year and every athletes save energy thinking of the Athens Olympics; in addition, he has nothing to prove in the short race after his 5000m World indoor record”.
Spanish long course team
In the absence of De la Ossa, it won’t be an easy task for the Spanish squad to better its fourth place in the long race from the last Worlds in Lausanne.
European 10,000m champion José Manuel Martínez will be in the Brussels line-up along with World 3000m steeplechase bronze medallist Eliseo Martín, the experienced Alejandro Gómez, who came sixth 15 years ago in Stavanger, while three debutants such as Castillejo, Serrano and Luis Alberto Miguel complete the team in the long race.
A trio of marathon runners, World silver medallist Julio Rey, European 10,000m bronze medallist José Ríos, and Fabián Roncero will be absent. The three of them have focused all the winter on his spring marathon preparations. In fact Ríos won the Lake Biwa marathon last Sunday in a PB of 2h07:42, while Rey and Roncero have not raced yet.
Jiménez spearheads short-race team
The best Spanish individual performance in Brussels should be set by Antonio Jiménez, the reigning European 3000m steeplechase champion.
Back to the elite after a lack lustre 2003 season due to illness, Jiménez finished fourth over 3000m at the recent IAAF World indoor Championships in Budapest where he missed the bronze medal by just 36 hundredths to Ethiopia’s Markos Geneti.
Jiménez looks forward to the Brussels challenge where he will try to reproduce or better his 2002 performance when he came seventh, the second non-African home behind Australian Craig Mottram.
Reigning European U-23 1500m bronze medallist Sergio Gallardo will also be aiming for a high finish following his fifth place in Budapest in the 3000m.
“I’d like to finish among the first 20 in Brussels. I hope that we’ll be fighting against Morocco and France in the pursuit of the bronze medal but teams such as Kenya and Ethiopia seem unreachable” said Gallardo, who will turn 25 next Monday and took part at the 1998 World Junior Championships at 800m.
1998 European 5000m champion Isaac Viciosa, Carlos García, whose twin brother Roberto came fourth at the 2002 European 5000m, José Luis Blanco, eighth in Paris in the 3000m steeplechase, and the 2004 Spanish champion (short race) Antonio Martínez complete a powerful Spanish contingent searching to regain their 2002 bronze medal position.
Women and juniors
In the women’s races, National champions Amaia Piedra (long race) and Jacqueline Martín (short) should be the strongest Spanish athletes alongside 40-year-old Teresa Recio (long race) and Iris Fuentes-Pila (short).
In the men’s junior event Alejandro Fernández (4th at the last year’s Europeans in Tampere over 10,000m and 9th in Edinburgh last December) will be one of the main European hopes, while Marta Romo, still 16, heads the women’s Spanish junior squad in Brussels.
Spanish team for Brussels
(last year’s team placing in brackets)
Men's Long race (4th)
José Manuel Martínez
Luis Alberto Miguel
Men's Short race (5th)
José Luis Blanco
Women's Long race (4th)
Women's Short race (8th)
Junior men (14th)
José A. Martínez
Juan D. Bote
Luis A. Marco
Junior Women (10th)