For the winners of Sunday’s titles at the 12th SPAR European Cross Country Championships, their commanding victories meant two entirely different things: for one it was a look back, and for the other, a springboard for the future.
For Dutchwoman Lornah Kiplagat, it marked the end of a largely successful 2005 campaign. For his part, Sergiy Lebid hopes that his unprecedented sixth win in his now traditional winter debut will bring success on the track in 2006.
Kiplagat - Capping an outstanding year
Following her victory on home turf in front of an enthusiastically appreciative crowd, Kiplagat said she hasn’t discounted another run at the upcoming World Cross Country Championships in Fukuoka, Japan, but admitted the really she hasn’t given 2006 much thought.
“I’m not even thinking about,” Kiplagat said with a wide smile. “I just want to take a break and relax for a little bit. I’m sure Pieter (Langerhorst, her husband and coach) has a plan, but I don’t want to hear about it or even read about it now.”
Despite her disappointing tenth place finish at last month’s ING New York City Marathon, her win in her debut at the continent’s cross country championship capped what was truly an outstanding year for Kiplagat, particularly in road racing competition.
“It didn’t take me long to get over New York,” she said. “Yes, that was disappointing, but if you look at my whole year, it went very good. Races I planned to do good in, I did do good in.”
Indeed, in road races she was virtually unbeatable this year. Second at the World Half-Marathon Championships in Edmonton in October, Kiplagat notched wins at several of the world’s most competitive road races, including the Falmouth Road Race in Massachusetts, The Beach to Beacon 10Km in Maine, Atlanta’s Peachtree 10Km in July, The Circle of Friends Mini 10Km in New York in June, and the Great Manchester Run 10Km in Manchester in May. In April, she also won the Fortis Rotterdam Marathon in 2:27:36, and won the World’s Best 10Km in San Juan, Puerto Rico in February.
Despite her strong road credentials, Kiplagat, who was fifth in the Olympic 10,000 in Athens and fourth at the 2003 World Championships, has competed well on the world stage on the track as well, and is eager to continue.
“I’m not going to favour one over the other,” she said. Her 30:12.53 from Paris in 2003, still ranks her among the fastest women ever over the distance on the track.
Lebid - Track success now the focus
Perhaps inspired by the sweeping breadth of Kiplagat’s wide-reaching resume, Lebid has suggested that his primary attention will be focused on the track in 2006.
Lebid announced on Saturday that regardless of his success in cross country this winter, he will not be contesting the World Championships in Fukuoka in order to better prepare for the battles on the track next year.
“April is a little too late for me, and I really want to begin preparations for the track season by then” he said, speaking through an interpreter.
After a handful of races, this winter he said he’ll decide in late February if he will contest the 3000 metres at the World Indoor Championships in Moscow in March, before opening his outdoor season in April at the European Cup 10,000m in Antalya, Turkey. In his only World Indoor Championships appearance, he reached the 3000 metre final in Budapest last year, but his start in Antalya will be his first 10,000 on the track in two years.
“I really want to do very well at the European Championships,” Lebid said, adding that he may seek the 5000/10,000 double in August in Gotheburg.
Next up for the 30-year-old Ukrainian are appearances at next weekend’s Lotto CrossCup IAAF Permit race in Brussels and the annual BoClassic Road Race in Bolzano, Italy on New Year’s Eve. Most of his 2006 competitive appointments have yet to be confirmed, except for one: He will be definitely be competing in San Giorgio su Legnano, Italy next 10 December, where he’ll try to add yet another European cross country title to his collection.
“Of course I will be there,” he said. “It’s only about 25 kilometers from my house!”
Bob Ramsak for the IAAF