Mimi Belete en route to her second victory at the Eurcross in Diekirch (Rosch Kohl) © Copyright
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Nkuzimana and Mimi Belete the strongest in Diekirch

Diekirch, LuxemburgCommanding complete control, Onesphore Nkuzimana won the Diekirch Eurocross for the third time on Sunday (28 Feb) while Mimi Belete cruised to victory in the women’s contest.

The Burundian was the strongest in a duel against Najim El Qadi from Morocco, while Belete from Bahrain won for the second consecutive time after beating Maryline Pellen from France in a sprint finish.

Nkuzimana lets his experience count

Experience counts in Cross Country running. That is what Nkuzimana proved in Diekirch. The Burundian won the Diekirch Eurocross, penultimate meeting of the 2010 IAAF Cross Country Permit series,  in 2005 and 2007 under his former name of Sultan Kamis Zaman, then running for Qatar. Nkuzimana is familiar with the course and with the tactics that are required to emerge. He took off in force and was followed only by El Qadi. Both opened up a gap of 80m with Omari Levy Matebo (KEN) and Irba Lakhal (FRA).

With 3K to run both were joined by Kamil Poczwardowski (POL), Elisha Meli (KEN) and Pieter Rijnders (BEL). But in a joint effort they still weren’t able to catch up with the leaders. Nkuzimana, looking comfortable and in control throughout waited for his chance until the final kilometre. He broke away from El Qadi to become the first athlete to take three Eurocross wins. In the back, Matebo, not at ease in the stormy weather that reigned all over Europe today, was left behind and it was Poczwardowski who proved to be the fastest sprinter for third place.

“We had to adapt the course due to extreme weather conditions today”, said press officer Sophie Hermès. “We cut out a section in the woods that looked a bit unsafe in these strong winds.”

In difficult conditions the best cross country runners prevail, as did Nkuzimana. “It was very tough for everybody on this muddy course,” the winner said. “It was impossible to run at even pace today, we had to slow down and to accelerate all the time. I’m happy to be back in my native country. I live and train in Burundi now at altitude and that gives me confidence to become a better athlete.”

Mimi Belete powers to a convincing win

The women’s race witnessed a closer battle between the favourites. A leading group of five stayed together when they entered the last of five laps. Mimi Belete (BRN), Simret Restle (GER), Linda Byrne (IRL), Maryline Pellen (FRA) and Almenesh Belete (ETH) were seeking shelter with each other against the gusty conditions.

But then Mimi Belete pushed harder and left her fellow athletes behind with one lap to go. The Bahraini finished 50m ahead of Pellen who surprisingly beat Almenesh Belete for second. With the World Championships in Bydgoszcz coming up there was also Polish interest in the women’s race. Alexandra Jawor finished 6th.

Ivo Hendrix for the IAAF

Leading Results -
Men – 10.000m

1. Onesphore Nkuzimana BDI 27:17
2. Najim El Qadi FRA 27:22
3. Irba Lakhal FRA 27:33
4. Kamil Poczwardowski POL 27:35
5. Elisha Meli KEN 27:48

Women – 5.350m

1. Mimi Belete BRN 17:03
2. Maryline Pellen FRA 17:14
3. Almenesh Belete ETH 17:16
4. Linda Byrne IRL 17:18
5. Simret Restle GER 17:25