Ethiopia's Sileshi Sihine took a solo win in the 15th edition of Memorial Peppe Greco (10km race; 10 laps), and was followed home by Italy's Stefano Baldini and Uganda's Boniface Kiprop. As such, yesterday's race podium was composed of the Olympic 10,000m silver medallist, the Olympic Marathon champion and the World Junior 10,000m champion.
In the 1990s Gebre versus Tergat
Scicli is a little city in the south of Sicily. The race was born in 1990 in memory of Peppe Greco, a doctor who had died in a car accident. The race became famous worldwide in 1995, when Haile Gebrselassie and Paul Tergat had a re-match race following the 10,000m World Championships final held a few weeks before.
The great challenge was repeated the following year after the Olympic final in Atlanta. The winner was always Gebrselassie, who took the honour in the Memorial also in 1997 and 1998. With four consecutive wins he is considered to be a citizen of Scicli.
Tergat, who had won the race in 1994, doubled in 1999. Then also 2001 World Champion Charles Kamathi (in 2002) and last year reigning World 10,000m reigning champion Kenenisa Bekele (now also Olympic champion) wrote his name on the champions list.
Celebrations for Baldini
This year the crowd celebrated the protagonist of one of the most beautiful and exciting moments in the Italian sport history. The Olympic Marathon title has given Baldini great popularity. While he was entering the Panathinaiko stadium in Athens, almost 7 millions were watching on Italian television, a fantastic audience for athletics.
The last four weeks have been full of engagements for Baldini. Every newspaper, tv or radio station has looked for him. He has even participated in a famous tv quiz program. He was even invited to an international economic forum in Cernobbio (Lake Como), where he had lunch with several important politicians. He remembers with a smile how he talked for half an hour with Spain's former Prime Minister José Maria Aznar, who asked him for some advice about running.
Baldini has hardly found the time for training. Since the Olympics he only did his first serious training session last Wednesday.
So it was a real miracle that he was able to stay in the leading pack even after Sihine's first attack during the 2nd lap. But when the Ethiopian took the lead again just after the halfway (14:29 the split), there was nothing to do.
An impressive move by Sihine
Sihine, who started this year by winning the bronze medal in the World Cross Country long race in Brussels and then improved his PBs on the track with 26:39.41 (Hengelo, 10,000m) and 12:47.04 (Rome, 5,000m), made a really impressive move. He flew in the 6th lap, and finished with a wonderful kilometre split of 2:41.
In that lap he gained 13 seconds on Baldini, Kiprop and the surprising Kenyan Bernard Chepkok, while the other man who formerly had been in the leading pack, Daniel Rono (PB 1:00:14 in half marathon), lost ground.
In the next 3 laps Sihine slowed down the pace and controlled the race. Only in the last lap did he push again and crossed the finish line with a time of 28:41 (the course record is 28:22, set by Gebrselassie in 1997).
Baldini ran a wonderful last lap and was able to drop Kiprop, who after the World Junior title in Grosseto in July showed his strength at the distance with a 4th place in Athens and with the World Junior record at the Memorial Van Damme in Brussels (27:04.00, improving Richard Chelimo's 27:11.18, set in 1991).
After Chepkok and Rono, 3000m steeplechase World Junior champion Ronald Kipchumba took the 6th place.
"More work and more experience"
"I am very satisfied with my season. It started with a medal in Cross Country and then I got another one at the Olympics," Sihine said after the race. "I improved from 2003 and I think I can do it more and more in the next year. I have to work harder and gain more experience, then I think I can even beat Kenenisa (Bekele)."
"I have adrenalin still!"
"I think I ran a wonderful and almost unexplainable race," said a very satisfied Baldini. "When starting the race, I didn't know what I could expect. I knew just one thing that I didn't want to disappoint this beautiful crowd with a bad race. I am full of adrenalin still; the Olympic gold has given me an enormous confidence in myself."
"The rivals here were really tough, because they were 10 km specialists. However, lap after lap I realized I was running very well and even if I could not follow Sihine, I stayed with Kiprop. In the last lap I pushed in the uphill part of the course and he suddenly faded behind."
"My next race will be the Giro al Sas in Trento on 9 October, then I will not race for almost two months, until the Boclassic in Bolzano (31 December). In these days my manager Gianni Demadonna and I are deciding where to run a spring marathon. In London I know that I'm going to find the best of the best, but I'm also fascinated by the over hundred years old history of Boston. Let's wait and see!"
Alberto Zorzi for the IAAF
Men's race (10 km)
1. Sileshi Sihine ETH 28:41
2. Stefano Baldini ITA 29:09
3. Boniface Kiprop UGA 29:17
4. Bernard Chepkok KEN 29:38
5. Daniel Rono KEN 29:42
6. Ronald Kipchumba KEN 30:01
7. Justus Kiprono KEN 30:01
8. Aziz Driouche MAR 30:24