Anne-Cecile Fontaine (FRA) wins the 7th IAU 24hr World Challenge in Bergamo, Italy (IAU) © Copyright
General News Henrik Olsson (SWE) and Anne

Olsson and Fontaine take IAU 24hr World Challenge titles in Bergamo

Cecile Fontaine (FRA) won the 7th IAU World Challenge held on 2-3 May 2009 in Bergamo, Italy.

Teams from Japan and France secured the men’s and women’s divisions, respectively.

Both Olsson and Fontaine also won the European Championship. Russia won the men’s European title and France did the honour in the women’s.

However, Fontaine unluckily missed setting a World’s Best performance by just 13 metres.

Race day conditions were warm at 22 C and dropped to 13 C at night. Overall 206 athletes participated from 28 different countries looking for the longest distance they could achieve in a 24 hour time period.

The course was around a 1133.945m loop. Teams had their tents set up on a controlled part of the course with several delegations bringing crews to help out with the athletes. The atmosphere around the aid station was electric all through the day and night.


The men’s race was a testament of persistence and patience and an example of striking at the most opportune time. Olsson was sitting in 11th position after the first 6 hours but biding his time, he was in 5th place by the 9th hour and moved into the lead in the 15th hour which he maintained till the end of the race. Olsson ran 257.042 km to win what was the 7th IAU 24 hour World Challenge.

Second place runner Ralf Weis (GER) had an amazing run. This was his first time on the national 24 hour team at the World Challenge and he ran a very tactical race moving up the ranks in the later quarter of the race. In the end Weiss ran 244.492 km.

Yuji Sakai (JPN) had another strong performance in this race, He finished 3rd in Seoul at the 6th edition of this race last year. This year he ran a very consistent race from start to finish completing 242.713 km.

The top runner coming into the championship, Fabien Hoblea (FRA), didn’t have a great race and finished in 86th position with a distance of 152.928 km.

In the team standings Japan continued their unprecedented winning streak, and were followed home by Russia and Germany.


The women’s race came down to a battle between long time friends and team-mates, Fontaine and  Brigitte Bec. Fontaine had been second last year when she finished behind Anne-Marie Vernet, also of France.

Both Fontaine and Bec ran an outstanding race with lead changes between the two for the first 15 hours when Fontaine took over and then started extending her lead.

Fontaine was gunning for the World’s Best Performance. The current record is at 243.657 km. However, in the end despite her very heroic effort, she came short up by 13 metres completing 243.644 km.

Bec finished second with a total distance of 234.977 km. She improved on her placing from last year when she went home with a bronze medal. Local athlete, Monica Casiraghi (ITA) finished third overall after competing 234.977 km.

Last year’s women’s champion, Vernet had a tough time around the course finishing in 14th position for the women with a distance of 202.051 km.

For the women’s team, France once again came out on top, followed by a very strong performance by United States and Italy.

European Championship

The World Challenge also counted as the European Championships. Olsson, Weis and early race leader Valdimir Bychkov (RUS) were the 1-2-3 in men’s European Championship. The women’s race was unchanged from the World Challenge winners.

The team winners were Russia taking home the gold for the men’s event followed by Germany in silver and Sweden in bronze. Women’s team event was won by France with Italy taking silver and Germany the bronze.

IAU is in the process of deciding the venue for 8th IAU 24 Hour World Challenge 2010.

Nadeem Khan (IAU) for the IAAF

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24hr World Challenge 2009, Bergamo, Italy


Gold --- Henrik Olsson SWE 257.042 km (1st European Championship)
Silver --- Ralf Weis GER 244.492 km (2nd European Championship)
Bronze --- Yuji Sakai JPN 242.713 km
4th Place --- Vladimir Bychkov RUS 240.506 km (3rd European Championship)
5th Place --- Eoin Keith IRL 237.206 km


Gold --- Anne-Cecile Fontaine FRA 243.644 km (1st European Championship)
Silver --- Brigitte Bec FRA 243.977 km (2nd European Championship)
Bronze --- Monica Casiraghi ITA 223.848 km (3rd European Championship)
4th Place --- Jamie Donaldson USA 220.219 km
5th Place --- Julia Alter GER 219.293 km

Team Competition Men:

Gold --- Japan 706.984 km
Silver --- Russia 693.445 km (1st European Championship)
Bronze --- Germany 689.111 km (2nd European Championship)
4th Place --- Sweden 684.333 km (3rd European Championship)
5th Place ---   France 681.166 km

Team Competition Women:

Gold --- France 684.078 km (1st European Championship)
Silver --- USA 636.159 km
Bronze --- Italy 626.386 km (2nd European Championship)
4th Place --- Germany 598.365 km (3rd European Championship)
5th Place --- Finland 590.963 km