Uganda’s Boniface Kiprop took an astonishing win at the ‘L Cross Internacional Zornotza’ - EAA Permit - meeting held in muddy conditions yesterday.
In doing so the 18-year-old Kiprop beat an illustrious field including former 10,000m World Champion Charles Kamathi, four time European Cross Country champion Sergiy Lebid and last year's winner Abdullah Ahmad Hassan.
Kiprop, who is the current World Cross Country Junior silver medallist, won by the handsome margin of 38 seconds after pulling away with nine minutes on the clock! Right from the start the Ugandan led a bunch of eight Africans and only one European, Lebid. The Ukrainian had arrived very late (2:00 in the morning) to the hotel due to a delay in his flight and confessed before the race “I feel tired”.
In the early stages, remarkably Kenya's Patrick Ivuti’s was absent from the leading group, as the Kenyan is the reigning World Cross silver medallist. Rather, at the front Kiprop increased his lead more and more, while Hassan, Fabian Joseph of Tanzania and Ethiopia’s Mulugeta Wondimu ran together some way back. Behind this triumvirate, Kamathi and Lebid took turns trying to narrow the gap.
By halfway it became clear that barring disaster, Kiprop, who placed sixth here last year, would be the eventual winner as he had built a massive 12-second gap over Hassan, 16 on Joseph and Wondimu, and 23 over Kamathi and Lebid.
In the second half of the race Kamathi made a late surge. First, he left Lebid, then he caught Tanzania’s Joseph and finally both of them reached Hassan. So, the three-way battle for second place was fierce.
Eventually with successive lap splits of 5:24/5:20/5:30/5:35 and 5:42 Kiprop romped home in 34:35 with the chasing trio still 200m away. In the thrilling finishing sprint for the runner's up spot Kamathi proved to be the fastest, one second ahead of Hassan, while the 18-year-old Joseph had to settle for fourth.
Running in solitude for the last four kilometres Lebid was an unchallenged fifth almost a full minute adrift Kiprop. Lebid confirmed his plans of focusing in the middle distances this winter, as he will be attending both the 3000m at the Worlds Indoors in Budapest (5-7 March), and then the short race at Brussels’ World Cross Country Championships two weeks later.
Holder of a 10,000m PB of 27:15.88, an elated Kiprop, who was fresh from a win in Amadora (Portugal) in a 10k road race last week said: “I’m delighted with my victory, this is a great beginning for this New Year. My tactic was to push hard and leave my rivals behind as soon as possible”.
The Nyahururu-based athlete added: “This year the race was much harder than last year’s, but my form now is much better and that made the difference” (he came sixth in 2003).
Asked about the chances of beating the strong Ethiopian team (Bekele, Sihine...) a confident Kiprop answered: “It’s just a matter of training. Let’s see what happens in Brussels."
Outstanding run by Ejigayehu Dibaba
From today’s race, it could be said that World 5000m champion Tirunesh Dibaba of Ethiopia has another tough rival...at home in the guise of her older sister Ejigayehu, who will turn 22 next March. Following Tirunesh’s win in Newcastle the day before, Ejigayehu, who was a late addition to the field, showed impressive form and left the other competitors with no chances just before halfway.
Until then the lead group was formed by a trio of Ethiopians (Dibaba, Brussels’ victor Gelete Burika and Meselech Melkamu), Kenya’s Viola Kibiwott and Portugal’s Analia Rosa.
Once Dibaba stormed away Melkamu was a clear second ahead of Rosa and Kibiwott, and both dropped a fading Burika. The late stages witnessed Dibaba running effortlessly (5:25/5:18/5:24/ and 5:40 for successive laps, which were shorter than the men’s) and with one mile left Kibiwott lost ground, as did Rosa who was unable to threaten Melkamu’s runner-up position.
Dibaba, ninth at the short race from Lausanne’s Worlds last year, crossed the finish line in 23:32, well ahead (13 seconds) of fellow compatriot Melkamu, with Rosa another nine seconds behind; the pre-race showdown between Kibiwott and Burika turned in a disappointing clash for fourth but over half a minute adrift Dibaba.
“I felt great and decided to speed up the pace. The surprise was that nobody followed me; my next race will be at the Boston Indoor Games, said Ejigayehu Dibaba. "I’ve scheduled to run over 5000 alongside my sister Tirunesh and Meseret Defar among others. The target is Gabriela Szabo’s World record of 14:47.35.”
Ejigayehu came ninth at the IAAF Paris Worlds in a PB of 31:01.07, and also holds a 14:41.67 5000m clocking for third at the Golden Gala in Rome
Men (10,500m course)
1 Boniface Kiprop (Uga) 34:35
2 Charles Kamathi (Ken) 35:13
3 Abdullah Ahmad Hassan (Qat) 35:14
4 Fabian Joseph (Tan) 35:17
5 Sergiy Lebid (Ukr) 35:34
6 Mulugeta Wondimu (Eth) 36:00
7 Julius Nyamu (Ken) 36:13
8 Patrick Ivuti (Ken) 36:19
9 David Kiplimo (Ken) 36:20
10 Ketema Negussie (Eth) 36:22
Women (6100m course)
1 Ejigayehu Dibaba (Eth) 23:22
2 Meselech Melkamu (Eth) 23:35
3 Analia Rosa (Por) 23:44
4 Viola Kibiwott (Ken) 23:54
5 Gelete Burika (Eth) 24:08
6 Laura Pinela (Esp) 24:28
7 Nebiat Habtemariam (Eri) 24:35
8 Zulema Fuentes-Pila (Esp) 24:51
9 Silvia Montané (Esp) 24:52
10 Helena Sampaio (Por) 25:03