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Kenya Vs. the rest of the world in the Italica Cross. Maranga-Fidatov take two in the women's race

Kenya Vs. the rest of the world in the Italica Cross. Maranga-Fidatov take two in the women's race

15 January, 1998 -The 16th edition of the Cross Internacional Italica, 4th stage of the IAAF World Cross Challenge, will be contested Sunday in Andalusia (Spain), around the ruins of a once proud Roman city. From the course, Seville can be seen clearly and, by straining the eyes, one can just make out the silhouettes of cranes, working around the clock. This is the site of the new stadium, which will be home to the 7th IAAF World Championships in Athletics in August 1999.

Once again, the organisers of the Cross Italica have enrolled some of the biggest names, in the tradition of the race. The event will be run over 10km for the senior men and 6km for the senior women on a grassy 2km long circuit.

Without a doubt, the most illustrious of the participants is Paul Tergat (KEN), the 10,000m world record holder, even if his season so far has started slowly. If the truth be known, the formidable Kenyan has been taking it easy for a few months after an intensive season in 1997 and is slowly getting back into shape so as to be on top form at the end of March, in Marrakech, where he will be aiming for his fourth consecutive world cross country title. Certainly, neither Bernard Barmasai (KEN), 3000 steeplechase world record holder, nor his young compatriot Paul Kosgei, who took bronze in the junior event in Turin last year and has shown great promise so far this season, consider Tergat a walkover.

There is likely to be a fight for the top of the World Cross Challenge Standings in Seville, with Kosgei, Abel Chimukoko (ZIM) and Hendrick Ramaala (RSA) all able to take the lead in the absence of current Challenge leaders Yann Millon (FRA) and James Moiben and Thomas Nyariki of Kenya who hold joint second place after three events.

Kosgei seems likely to take the lead in the standings, despite the presence of Ramaala and of Britain’s Keith Cullen, who trail Kosgei by 5 and 6 points respectively. Also worth watching will be the performances of European Champion, Carsten Jorgensen of Denmark, and of the Spanish and Moroccan teams who have some of their top athletes competing.

Favourite in the women’s race will be Jacqueline Maranga, who is just one point behind Gete Wami (ETH) in the standings after her photo-finish victory in Amorebieta last week ahead of Elena Fidatov.

In the Cross Italica, we could well see a repeat of the Kenya-Romania duel which so thrilled the 7000 spectators in Amorebieta, even though it will not be decisive for the leadership. With Gete Wami absent, Maranga should have no problem taking the lead, assuming she manages to hold sway over two dangerous adversaries: Merima Denboba (ETH) and Zohra Ouaziz (MAR).