Ethiopia’s Sileshi Sihine took an unchallenged victory at the “64th Cross Internacional Juan Muguerza” cross country meeting held yesterday (14 Jan). The 2006 World Cross Country long race silver medallist beat Spain’s reigning European 10,000 silver medallist Chema Martínez by a handsome margin of 18 seconds.
In the women’s race, fellow Ethiopian Mestewat Tufa snatched a closer win over compatriot Bezunesh Bekele by a four-second margin.
MEN - Mombasa minded Sihine
A multiple major championship medallist in the last few years, Sihine, who will turn 24 on 29 January was making his first competition for the last nine and a half months after a right foot injury sidelined him during last summer. Sihine, the reigning World and Olympic 10,000m silver medallist proved to be fully recovered and to be a likely candidate for honours at this year’s World Cross Country Championships to be held in ten week’s time in Mombasa, Kenya.
A 2:41mins km killed the race
The race opened not particularly fast and seven men remained in contention by halfway. The key movement came with 22 minutes on the clock when Sihine powered ahead to build a comfortable lead over Eritrea’s Ali Abdallah and the Spanish duo of Martínez and Juan Carlos de la Ossa. Sihine was timed at 2.41 for the ninth kilometre a surge which destroyed any opposition. Behind Sihine, firstly Martínez and then De la Ossa overhauled a fading Abdallah, the only man who had dared to follow in Sihine’s pace.
Sihine, holder of an impressive PBs of 12:47.04 and 26:39.69 for the 5000 and 10,000m respectively, didn’t want to let the organisers down – who provided him with the bib number 1 - romping home unopposed in 31:08 and a 18-second advantage on Martínez, himself another six second ahead of his compatriot and training-mate De la Ossa.
“There are no easy races but today’s win was comfortable,” confirmed Sihine. “It was my first outing after a long lay-out through injury so I decided to wait and see instead of pushing hard right from the start. The rivalry at the Ethiopians trials will be huge… the Bekele brothers, Abebe Dinkesa, Tarefe Zewdie… but I hope to be able to gain selection for the Worlds in Mombasa,” confirmed Sihine who now returns to Ethiopia to prepare the Worlds trials to be held in Addis Abeba in mid-February.
Spain’s European medallists eager for marathon bids
As for Martínez he judged the race perfectly and coming from behind managed a creditable second place despite “building up for the Rome Marathon (18 March), which means that I am covering over 200 kilometres; anyway I’m in great shape and despite having fallen in the third lap on a bend my tactics paid off, as I got the better of the recent silver and bronze medallists from the last Europeans, Portugal’s Fernando Silva (5th) and my mate and friend De la Ossa (3rd)”. The latter will make his first ever race over the marathon at the next Flora London Marathon on Sunday 22 April.
WOMEN – Tufa, a new Ethiopian ace?
The women’s event was billed as an interesting clash between two top Ethiopians in the guise of Mestewat Tufa and Bezunesh Bekele. They were born with just four days of difference (14 and 18 September 1983 respectively), and both athletes placed among the first ten at last year’s World Cross Country Championships in Fukuoka, Tufa came 7th in the long race while Bekele finished 9th in the short.
After a brisk first 400m on the track covered in 1:11 by Hungary’s Aniko Kalovics, only Portugal’s Jessica Augusto, Tufa and Bekele could live with the Hungarian’s pace.
Tufa took command of the event for the first time with the clock reading eight minutes and from then on it became clear that barring disaster the eventual winner would be either Tufa or Bekele, while Kalovics and Augusto would have to settle for fighting for third spot on the podium.
Tufa, who was fresh from an overwhelming 17 second-win over Kenya’s 2006 World XC silver medallist (short race) Priscah Jepleting in Fuensalida, Spain on 7 January, proved to be stronger than Bekele. She pulled away with ease from her compatriot in the last lap to take her second commanding win in a row in 20:37, to Bekele’s 20:41, while Augusto caught and passed Kalovics to claim third spot, 27 seconds adrift the winner.
“After my successful tally over the last two weekends in Spain I now return home to be ready for the Ethiopians trials. It’s true that there will be only one race (long) at this year’s Worlds and the standards will be higher but I feel I’m a better athlete than last year so we’ll see what happens in Mombasa” explained Tufa.
Emeterio Valiente for the IAAF
Men (10.53 km course)
1. Sileshi Sihine (Eth) 31:08
2. Chema Martínez (Esp) 31:26
3. Juan Carlos de la Ossa (Esp) 31:32
4. Ali Abadallah (Eri) 31:37
5. Fernando Silva (Por) 31:39
6. Carlos Castillejo (Esp) 31:58
7. Ricardo Serrano (Esp) 32:04
8. Miguel Ángel Barzola (Arg) 32:05
9. Phil Nicholls (Gbr) 32:12
10. Antonio Núñez (Esp) 32:22
Women (6.47km course)
1. Mestewat Tufa (Eth) 20:37
2. Bezunesh Bekele (Eth) 20:41
3. Jessica Augusto (Por) 21:04
4. Aniko Kalovics (Hun) 21:13
5. Rosa Morató (Esp) 21:38
6. Nebiat Habtemariam (Eri) 21:44
7. Leonor Carneiro (Por) 21:45
8. Diana Martín (Esp) 21:58
9. Vicky Gill (Gbr) 22:20
10. Claudia Pereira (Por) 22:32