Leonard Komon takes a big win in Seville (Miguel Alfambra) © Copyright
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Komon and Goshu the convincing victors at Elgoibar Cross Country

Kenya’s Leonard Patrick Komon grabbed a commanding victory at the ‘67th Cross Internacional Juan Muguerza’ in Elgoibar, Spain, on Sunday (24) on a cloudy and rainy afternoon. In doing so Komon kept his winning streak as the 22-year-old 2008 World cross country silver medallist was fresh from another win last Sunday at the IAAF permit in Seville.

On the women’s side Ethiopia Ferhiwot Goshu joined the illustrious list of past winners in Elgoibar getting the better of Kenya’s Ann Karindi Mwangi.

The men’s 10,800m contest had been billed as a thrilling encounter between Komon and his fellow Kenyan Hosea Macharinyang, with Uganda’s Moses Kibet and Mike Kipyego, also of Kenya, as dangerous outsiders.

Macharinyang, a top-ten finisher at the XC Worlds in 2006 and 2007 has been sidelined through injuries in 2008 and 2009 but he proved to be back in fitness last 22 November when he out-clashed his countryman Joseph Ebuya in Eldoret.

Surprisingly, it was Sergio Sánchez, just arrived from Oviedo when he had clocked the third fastest ever time (4:52.90) over 2000 on the boards the night before, who took charge of the race in the early stages but by the fourth kilometre the leading group was comprised of only African athletes in the guise of the four pre-race favourites plus Morocco’s Lhoussain Dhame, the latter a surprise victor in Maliaño last Sunday from Ethiopia’s Hunegaw Mesfin.

Komon pulls away with uncommon ease

After successive 2100m laps of 6:17, 6:21 and 6:21, Komon – a winner here in 2008 and third last year – injected full gas at the start of the last loop to break away with ease from Macharinyang, the reigning World Junior XC bronze medallist Kibet and steeplechaser Kipyego, all of them running in crocodile file chasing Komon.

With some 100om left Komon’s win became clear and the interest turned to the battle for the minor places on the podium; a 6:12 closing lap led Komon to a comfortable victory in 32:44 and he could afford to slow down the pace over the final metres while Kipyego pipped Macharinyang already on the track to take second three seconds adrift the winner.

Komon declared: “Last year, I finished third here and promised to come back the following year to regain my title from 2008. Well, the work is now done. Fortunately, the rain stopped when the men’s race got underway. I now return to Kenya for my build-up for the Kenyan trials for the Worlds. I’m confident to make the National team and fight in Bydgoszcz to return to the podium I reached two years ago.”

Women's race - Goshu: a new Ethiopian prospect?

The women’s 6.624km contest kicked off quite conservatively with the Portuguese duo of Dulce Félix and Sara Moreira, 6th and 10th respectively at the Europeans XC championships in Dublin, making most of the early pacing duties.

However, the 2009 European indoor 3000m silver medallist Moreira soon lost ground and before the halfway point the leading group was formed by Félix, the Kenyan pair of Ann Karindi Mwangi and Viola Kibiwot plus the diminutive Ethiopian Ferhiwot Goshu, the reigning World Junior 3000m bronze medallist.

Mwangi was tipped as the main favourite, largely thanks to her Amorebieta win and Seville third place earlier this month but the Amman Worlds’ seventh place finisher just could not respond to Goshu’s change of speed over the closing 2.1km lap. The Ethiopian, a creditable fourth at last year’s World Junior XC championships gave no option to Mwangi and crossed the finish line four seconds ahead of the Kenyan (22:37/22:41) while Félix managed to keep Kibiwot at bay to snatch third place.

Goshu, who will turn 20 next 28 June, declared: “I found the race really tough because of the rain. Today’s win is a strong confidence booster thinking of the Ethiopian trials where I’m aiming to be part of my country’s senior team for the XC Worlds. I have already competed in Spain several times, I like the country a lot and I even know some Spanish basic expressions.”

Asked who is her favourite Ethiopian female athlete, a cautious Goshu replied: “Dibaba, Defar, Melkamu…all of them are great athletes, I wouldn’t pick one in particular.” Goshu said that she’l focus on the 3000 and 5000m distances on the track next summer.

Emeterio Valiente for the IAAF

Leading Results -

Men (10.8km):
1. Leonard Komon (Kenya)   32:44
2. Mike Kipyego (Kenya)  32:47
3. Hosea Macharinyang (Kenya) 32:49
4. Moses Kibet (Uganda)  32:56
5. Sergio Sánchez (Spain)  33:02
6. Lhoussain Dhame (Morocco)  33:07
7. Javier Guerra (Spain)  33:22
8. Hicham El Amrani (Morocco)  33:41
9. Javier Carriqueo (Argentina) 33:45
10. Neilson Hall  (England)  33:46

Women (6.62km):
1. Frehiwot Goshu (Ethiopia)  22:37
2. Ann Karindi Mwangi (Kenya)  22:41
3. Ana Dulce Félix (Portugal)  22:48
4. Viola Kibiwot (Kenya)  22:55
5. Mariya Konovalova (Russia)  22:57
6. Diana Martín (Spain)  23:08
7. Sara Moreira (Portugal) 23:20
8. Sonia Samuels (England))  23:34
9. Alessandra Aguilar (Spain)  23:48
10. Rebecca Robinson (England) 23:51