Brussels, BelgiumSergiy Lebid from Ukraine and Andrea Lalli from Italy are returning to one of their favourite cross country courses on Sunday (19) in the Belgian capital to challenge a strong Kenyan squad in the annual Brussels fixture of the IAAF Cross Country Permit Meeting calendar in what is likely to be cold and snowy conditions.
In the women’s race Portuguese Jessica Augusto appears for the first time as the reigning European Cross Country champion to take on a Kenyan challenge that is led by Caroline Chepkwony and Purity Cherotich.
Sergiy Lebid already competed the Brussels race 10 times and has won it twice, and in 2008 became the European champion at the same venue. That is to say that the Ukrainian is familiar with the challenges of the course that crawls against a steep hill in the Park of Laeken.
In the same continental championships in 2008 Italian Andrea Lalli took his first big international honour in becoming the European Under 23 champion. Last year Lalli confirmed his strength on this course when he emerged as an emphatic winner a strong international field and in apocalyptic weather conditions.
Lebid continued his subscription as the best European cross country runner in winning the European title for the ninth time in Albufeira, Portugal last week. And it looks as if the Ukranian can only become stronger, as the season has just begun for him.
David Kiprotich Bett is one of the most exciting young talents of Kenyan athletics. The World Junior 5000m champion heads a team of Kenyans that includes Josphat Bett, the 2008 World 10,000m Junior champion, Isaiah Koech, a 17-year old talent with a 5000m PB of 13:07.70, and Paul Meli, who won in Sud Ouest and in Les Mureaux this year.
Britain is sending a delegation of more than 15 athletes with Steve Vernon and Tom Humphries amongst them. Both will be eager to wipe out their below par performance at the European championships last week. Dabayo Badhaso from Norway, a winner in Roeselare recently, can be an outsider. The local fans will be cheering for Atelaw Bekele and 20 year old Jeroen D’hoedt.
Portuguese Jessica Augusto was by far the most impressive of all winners at last week’s European championships in her home country. She easily pulled away from her opponents and dominated from start to finish. From the top 10 finishers in Albufeira Ana Dulce Felix (POR), Fionnuala Britton (IRL) and Hatti Dean are also on the entry list in Brussels.
Caroline Chepkwony carries the strongest Kenyan hopes as she was able to finish second last year in a race that was also held in truly wintry conditions. Also to look out for are Purity Cheprotich, this year’s World Junior 3000m Steeplechase champion and Prisca Jepleting.
Ethiopian Almensh Belete outclassed the whole field in Mol and Roeselare and Brussels provides an outstanding occasion for her to show how close she can battle on the highest international level.
Also announced is last year winner Adrienne Herzog. However, there are questions marks on the competitiveness of the Dutchwoman after she stepped out in the early stages of the European championships race last week.
The setting is magnificent and the expectations are great for Sunday’s IAAF Brussels Permit Cross Country. Beneath the Brussels Atomium and within sight of the residence of the Royal Family the Park of Laeken will be a meeting place of world class cross country running.
Ivo Hendrix for the IAAF