Sileshi Sihine winner of the Venta de Banos cross country (Jose Perez Gomez) © Copyright
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Sihine in a class of his own in Venta de Baños

Venta de Baños, SpainEthiopia’s Sileshi Sihine, World 10,000m bronze medallist, clinched his second win in a row at the 24th Cross Internacional de Venta de Baños held yesterday. Sihine’s victory was overwhelming and the effortless manner of his win suggested he could have run much faster if needed. The 20-year-old’s display was awesome and only an in-form Kenenisa Bekele could have beaten him.

In terms of ease, Sihine’s way of winning was reminiscent of Bekele’s; coming three weeks after another prestigious win at the Great Ethiopian Run, the Addis-Abeba-based athlete seems on the way to better his seventh place at this year’s World Cross Country Championships in Lausanne.

The field assembled by the organisers featured three top-ten athletes from Lausanne’s long race: Sihine himself, Kenya’s Patrick Ivuti, runner-up and Tadesse Zersenay, ninth on that occasion. In addition, Kenya’s Michael Kipyego, who came fourth in the short race and Spain’s Juan Carlos de la Ossa, fresh from his silver medal at the European Championships held one week ago were also in the starting list.

From the gun Sihine, holder of an impressive PB of 26:58.76 for the 10,000m, set a suicidal pace and the rest of the competitors were in bewilderment witnessing how the young Ethiopian broke away from them with incredible ease. Such powerful was Sihine’s opening burst that he had already built a massive 17 seconds gap over the chasing group with five minutes on the clock! By then Zersenay, De la Ossa and Kipyego took turns trying to narrow the Ethiopian’s advantage but to no avail while Patrick Ivuti fought hard to make up for a slow start; actually, he didn’t catch Sihine’s chasing group until almost halfway.

It was then that De la Ossa lost ground and faded to a lonesome fifth place behind the four Africans; meanwhile, Sihine’s pace was still terrific (5:49 for the first lap and a 6:15 average for the remaining four loops); going through the eighth kilometre he had no less than 35 seconds over Zersenay and Ivuti who in turn had four seconds on Kipyego, the current World Junior 3000m Steeplechase champion.

Sihine reached his widest margin in the finish line, a huge 39-second gap on Zersenay who dropped Ivuti in the last 200m while Kipyego came fourth 49 seconds behind the winner. In his fifth outing in six weeks a tired De la Ossa still managed to resist Italy’s Umberto Pusterla’s late surge to place fifth and first European some 1:19 adrift Sihine. It is also to be mentioned the seventh place signed by 1500 specialist Spain’s Juan Carlos Higuero (3:31.61 in 2003) who will look for a medal in his specialist event at the Worlds Indoor Championships to be held in Budapest next March (5-7).

On the women’s side Poland’s Justyna Bak took a much closer victory from Britain’s Kathy Butler. The Pole is a former World 3000m Steeplechase record holder and still holds the third fastest ever time with a 9:22.29 clocking in 2002; the 29-year-old missed entirely the 2003 season but seems to be back on form again following her seventh place at the recent European Cross Country Championships held in Edinburgh.

It was Kathy Butler who made most of the front running throughout the race and before the second kilometre mark only Bak stayed at her shoulder with Italy’s Patrizia Tisi, ninth in Edinburgh, some five seconds behind. Performing in her hometown Spain’s Marta Domínguez, World 5000m silver medallist, lost 30 seconds at halfway running alongside Portugal’s Ana Dias and Alessandra Aguilar, of Spain.

It seemed for a while that Tisi was going to catch the two leaders and she even came only three seconds adrift with 1.5 kilometres to go. Finally, Bak stepped up the pace in the final stages and left the courageous Butler, who had to settle for second, 22:05 and 22:11 being their respective times. Tisi finished a close third in 22:14 while Domínguez took advantage of her huge track speed to comfortably take the fourth spot way back in 23:02.


Men (10,775 m course)

1 Sileshi Sihine (Eth) 31:29
2 Tadesse Zersenay (Eri) 32:08
3 Patrick Ivuti (Ken) 32:12
4 Michael Kipyego (Ken) 32:18
5 Juan Carlos de la Ossa (Esp) 32:48
6 Umberto Pusterla (Ita) 32:56
7 Juan Carlos Higuero (Esp) 33:07
8 Ricardo Serrano (Esp) 33:17
9 Driss Lakhaouaja (Mar) 33:20
10 Kamel Ziani (Esp) 33:29

 Women (6545m course)

1 Justyna Bak (Pol) 22:05
2 Kathy Butler (Gbr) 22:11
3 Patrizia Tisi (Ita) 22:14
4 Marta Domínguez (Esp) 23:02
5 Ana Dias (Por) 23:06
6 Laura Pinela (Esp) 23:08
7 Alessandra Aguilar (Esp) 23:15
8 Beatriz Santiago (Esp) 23:31
9 Amaia Piedra (Esp) 23:35
10 Monica Rosa (Por) 23:40