Linet Masai taking a big victory in Llodio (Miguel Alfambra) © Copyright
General News Llodio, Spain

Masai and Medhin unstoppable in Llodio

Eritrea’s Teklemariam Medhin and Kenya’s Linet Masai captured top spots in style at the 26th ‘Cross Internacional Valle de Llodio’ held yesterday (22) on a windy but sunny day.

In doing so, the Madrid-based 20-year-old Medhin beat Kenya’s 2008 World Cros Country silver medallist Leonard Komon, while the manner of the reigning World 10,000m champion Masai’s victory - she built almost a full minute advantage over her fellow Kenyan Milca Chemos Cheywa - suggests Llodio’s spectators have just witnessed an athlete born to challenge for World cross country honours also in the years to come.

MEN – Komon carves out race, Medhin runs away

The men’s 9.79km race featured three top-ten athletes from last March’s World Cross Country Championships in Amman in the guise of Komon (4th on that occasion), Medhin (9th) and Ethiopia’s Mesfin Hunegnaw (10th). The classy line-up also included a 27:06 10,000m man Eritrea’s Kidane Tadese and the in-form Spaniard Alemayehu Bezabeh, fresh from a sprint victory from Hunegnaw (runner-up) and Medhin (3rd) last weekend at Quintanar on Spanish soil too.

It was Komon who took charge of the early pace trying to bounce back from his disappointing performance last year, when he was a distant 8th. At halfway, only Medhin, K. Tadese and Bezabeh were able to live with Komon’s brisk pace but shortly afterwards K. Tadese – the younger brother of the reigning World Half Marathon world champion – lost ground from the leading trio.

Komon’s desperate efforts to leave his pursuers behind proved to be unsuccessful and the key movement came exactly with 1700m to go when Medhin unleashed a devastating kick to open a sizeable margin in a matter of few seconds on Komon and a fading Bezabeh who was later caught by Tadese in the fight for the minor place on the podium.

Medhin romped home unopposed in 29:08 to build a six-second advantage on Komon, himself another six seconds clear of Tadese. The European battle – with all eyes set on the upcoming Europeans Championships to be held in Dublin on 13 December – witnessed solid performances by Bezabeh (4th), his countryman (Moroccan-born) Ayad Lamdassem (5th) and Sweden’s reigning European XC bronze medallist Mustafa Mohamed (6th)  albeit 50 seconds adrift the victor.

A joyful Medhin declared: “after two third places on this cross country season (Atapuerca, 8 Nov. and Quintanar, 15 Nov) I was eager to conquer my first win so I decided to change my front tactics, remain behind the leaders all the way to attack only over the late stages of the race; it seems that paid off.”

WOMEN – Masai destroys the opposition

The women’s 7.64km contest offered the presence of newly-minted World 10,000m champion Linet Masai. The still 19-year-old Kenyan kicked off successfully her Cross Country campaign to provide ample evidence that her silver medal in Amman at this year’s World XC championships was no fluke; she was in full command of the event from the second kilometre thanks to an injection of terrific pace which proved simply unaffordable for the rest.

Running in majestic style, the lonesome Masai had already built a massive margin of 20 seconds by the 4000m point (13:02) on Milca Cheywa, the current World 3000m steeplechase bronze medallist, who was making her first ever cross country appearance on cross country.

The remaining laps just confirmed  the long-legged Masai’s overwhelming authority as her advantage become bigger and bigger to reach the amazing figure of 50 seconds at the bell on Cheywa and a full minute on Portugal’s Ines Monteiro, who was runner-up at the opening IAAF permit race in Oeiras held the day before (Sat 21 November).

At the tape, Masai was timed at 25:11 to Cheywa’s 25:58 while Monteiro threatened the Kenyan second place over the last lap but had finally to settle for third five seconds behind the steeplechaser.

Masai is the sister of the current World 10,000m bronze medallist Moses Masai and has no relation to three-time World short course cross country champion Edith Masai.

Emeterio Valiente for the IAAF

Leading Results –

Men (9.79km)
1. Teklemariam Medhin (Eritrea) 29:08
2. Leonard Komon (Kenya) 29:14
3. Kidane Tadese (Eritrea) 29:20
4. Alemayehu Bezabeh (Spain) 29:26
5. Ayad Lamdassem (Spain) 29:54
6. Mustafa Mohamed (Sweden) 29:58
7. Hunegnaw Mesfin (Ethiopia) 30:05
8. Carlos Castillejo (Spain) 30:07
9. Francisco Javier López (Spain) 30:13
10. Manuel Penas (Spain) 30:21

Women (7.64km)
1. Linet Masai (Kenya) 25:11
2. Milca Chemos Cheywa (Kenya)  25:58
3. Ines Monteiro (Portugal) 26:03
4. Rosa Morató (Spain) 26:57
5. Diana Martín (Spain) 27:19
6. Sonia Bejarano (Spain) 27:27
7. Fortuna Zegergish (Eritrea) 27:34
8. Gemma Barrachina (Spain) 27:40
9. Jacqueline Martín (Spain) 27:48
10. Azucena Díaz (Spain) 27:49