Gebre-egziabher Gebremariam out-sprints Moses Kipsiro, Leonard Komon and Zersenay Tadese to take the senior mens title (Getty Images) © Copyright

Gebremariam tops the field in Oeiras - preview

Lisbon, PortugalThe IAAF Cross Country Permit Series 2009/10 kicks off this Saturday (21) with the Finibanco Oeiras Cross Country in Oeiras, Portugal.

And the organisers of this event, who also organise the Lisbon Half-Marathon in March and the Portugal Half-Marathon in September, both IAAF Gold Label Road Races, have lured the reigning World champion Gebre-Egziabher Gebremariam to lead the field. The Ethiopian, who is married to Worknesh Kidane, a former World Cross Country champion with ample medals to her credit, will be targeting his first victory on Portuguese sands and grass.

T. Bekele the chief challenger

But he will face some important competitors, led by his countryman Tariku Bekele. The younger brother of World and Olympic champion Kenenisa Bekele, is famous in Portugal because of his victory here in 2004, ahead of Paul Tergat, and was second in 2005.

Kiprono Menjo, of Kenya, third in Oeiras in 2006 and the winner at the Almond Blossom Cross Country in 2008 and 2009, and Andrea Lalli, the 2008 and 2009 Italian national cross country champion, are also among the favorites.

But Portuguese runners usually do produce their best performances at home, and Rui Pedro Silva, who was eighth at the 2008 European Cross Country Championship, and José Rocha, the winner last weekend in Torres Vedras, are also hoping to be in the victory chase, especially among the strong international field.

Other names to watch include Kenyans Elisha Birgen and Nicholas Korir and Portuguese Fernando Silva and Hermano Ferreira.

Women’s field – locals the favourites

In the women’s field, it’s the reigning European team champion Portuguese runners who will be the favourites. Leading the charge will be Anália Rosa, who was third here last year and in Torres Vedras last weekend; and Sara Moreira, third in Torres Vedras and the winner of 3000m Steeplechase and 5000m in the World University Games student games in July.

Jessica Augusto, second in last year’s European Cross Country championships, wasn’t scheduled to run in Oeiras, but after a mistake at the start in Torres Vedras where she was to try to nab an automatic spot for the European championships team, will toe the line this weekend as well. Last year she was second to Inês Monteiro (who will run in Llodio, Spain, this weekend) and says she’s in good shape and motivated to run better.

Among the international field, Kenyan Faith Chemutai, a former 5000m silver medallist at the World junior championships, and Tanzania’s Jane Kangara, are the most known names. Others to keep an eye on are Kenyans Winnie Jepkorir and Carolina Kipruto and Russians Ksenya Agafonova and Olga Golovkina.

António Manuel Fernandes for the IAAF