Santiponce (Seville), Spain – Kenya’s Geoffrey Kipsang and Linet Masai captured their respective victories in commanding fashion at the 30th ‘Cross Internacional de Itálica’ – the sixth leg of this season’s IAAF Cross Country Permit series – celebrated on Sunday (15).
Held under a surprising rainy weather – the first time in this 21st century – the event had already produced big news even before the start as the organisers announced that Ethiopia’s Imane Merga and Kenya’s Paul K. Tanui – the reigning World Cross Country champion and the silver medallist - had been last minute withdrawals. While Merga received a military award in his native Ethiopia yesterday and had no time to travel to Seville, Tanui was not given the visa.
Kipsang and Rop - new crop of Kenyans dominates the contest
The reigning World junior XC champion Kipsang produced a stunning display of front running from gun to tape. However, the early pace was not particularly fast in the opening 2000 metre laps and it was not until midway that a group of six athletes sped away from the rest. While Kipsang and Uganda’s 2009 World silver medallist Moses Kipsiro made most of the pace, Kenya’s Leonard Komon – the victor in Itálica the last two seasons – was never a factor and travelled way back of the the main group which also included Kenya’s Albert Rop, Geoffrey Kirui and Mike Kiptoo plus Ethiopia’s Abera Kuma.
Boosted for the local crowd throughout, Spain’s Ayad Lamdassem could not avoid to fall from the leading group with the clock reading 17 minutes. Meanwhile, Kipsang injected a brisker rhythm which soon paid dividends as only Kispsiro and the 16(!)-year-old Rop managed to remain at his shoulder. By the bell (2000 metres to go) this triumvirate travelled ten seconds ahead of Kirui and Kiptoo.
To the delight of the aficionados, the closing lap was more than thrilling, with the 19-year-old Kipsang pushing hard, Kipsiro always in second and the teenager Rop – credited with 7:35.66 (3000m) and 13:03.70 (5000m) times - a surprise third. With some 1000m to go Kipsiro – twice victor here – began to falter and the race became a two-horse battle between Kipsang and Rop – barely 35 years of age overall!
The decisive movement came with some 200 metres to go as they had to negotiate a very tight (180º) final bend and Kipsang got off from it much faster than Rop to secure his win over the homestraight while a lonesome Kipsorio completed a classy podium ten seconds adrift the winner.
“I knew the level would be huge today but I was confident of my winning chances at any moment,” said Kipsang. “In the absence of the Cross Country worlds, I’ll be focused on the London Olympics where I would like to make the Kenyan team over 10,000 metres. I’ll next run next Sunday (22) at the Elgoibar Cross Country,” concluded Kipsang, who holds fine 27:06:35 (10,000m) and 59:31 Half Marathon performances.
Masai takes revenge from Cheruiyot – Women’s race
Kenya’s Linet Masai and Vivian Cheruiyot can arguably be regarded as the current world’s best female distance athletes with a neverending list of accolades to their credit. They also were the last victors here, Masai in 2010 and Cheruiyot – from Masai – last year.
The 8Km contest opened quite cautiously, Spain’s Alessandra Aguilar – a 2:26:58 marathoner – leading the first six minutes of the race. By then, the 22-year-old Masai ran at a pedestrian pace for her in the middle of the pack. Shortly afterwards Masai moved to the front with ease and only Cheruiyot and the Ethiopian pair of Wude Ayalew and Hiwot Ayalew could live with her frantic pace.
However, this four-unit heading group was to be short-lived as Masai broke away before the third kilometre to gradually increase her advantage over the chasing group. Running in her usual majestic and effortless style, Masai captivated the crowd assembled to prove the uncharacteristic mud was no barrier for her.
Over the last lap Hiwot Ayalew lost ground and the attention turned to the fight for the second place between the reigning World 5000, 10,000m and Cross Country champion Cheruiyot and Wude Ayalew, the 2009 World 10,000m bronze medallist.
At the tape, Masai had built a massive 18-second margin on Cheruiyot who prevailed over the Ethiopian after a fierce fight, both athletes credited with the same time. Italy’s Nadia Ejjafini was the first European home in seventh taking some minor revenge from Ireland’s European champion Fionnuala Britton in eighth.
“I felt very comfortable throughout,” the long-legged Masai said. “I began conservatively but then decided to push hard as Vivian has beaten me several times over the closing metres.”
Masai who recorded her second win of the current XC season after her victory at the Atapuerca permit last 13 November.
Emeterio Valiente for the IAAF
Men (10,800m) -
1. Geoffrey Kipsang (Kenya) 30:53
2. Albert Rop (Kenya) 30:57
3. Moses Kipsiro (Uganda) 31:03
4. Geoffrey Kirui (Kenya) 31:13
5. Mark Kiptoo (Kenya) 31:14
6. Ayad Lamdassem (Spain) 31:23
7. Abera Kuma (Ethiopia) 31:27
8. Vincent Chepkok (Kenya) 31:28
9. Humegaw Mesfin (Ethiopia) 31:45
10. Goiton Kifle (Eritrea) 31:47
Women (8000m) -
1. Linet Masai (Kenya) 25:42
2. Vivian Cheruiyot (Kenya) 26:00
3. Wude Ayalew (Ethiopia) 26:00
4. Hiwot Ayalew (Ethiopia) 26:23
5. Pauline Korikwiang (Kenya) 26:32
6. Mercy Cherono (Kenya) 26:40
7. Nadia Ejjafini (Italy) 26:47
8. Fionnuala Britton (Ireland) 26:54
9. Priscah Jepleting (Kenya) 26:55
10. Diana Martín (Spain) 27:32