World and Olympic medallists Hellen Obiri and Paul Chelimo will be in the spotlight at the 61st edition of the Campaccio race in San Giorgio su Legnano on Saturday (6), the first Italian leg of the 2017-18 IAAF Cross Country Permit series.
Obiri, the world 5000m champion, will be targetting back-to-back Campaccio wins after defeating Faith Kipyegon and Agnes Tirop in the 2017 edition. The Kenyan star crossed the finish-line in 18:32 to smash Alice Aprot’s 18:56 course record set in 2016.
That win was the springboard to a very successful season for the 29-year-old, whose 2017 laurels included an IAAF Diamond League trophy powered by a series of impressive results including her 14:18.37 PB at the Golden Gala in Rome and three more wins in Shanghai, Monaco and at the final in Brussels. Her career honours include 2016 Olympic 5000m silver, world indoor 3000m gold (2012) and silver (2014) and world 1500m bronze (2013).
Tirop, the 2015 world cross country champion at 19, followed up her third place in San Giorgio su Legnano last January with a successful season of her own highlighted by a bronze medal finish in the 10,000m at the IAAF World Championships London 2017 and will be looking to start her 2018 season on a high note. Tirop illustrated her good form last Sunday by winning the Boclassic 5 km with a 15:30 course record.
The top Kenyan trio is completed by Lilian Rengeruk, bronze medallist at the World Cross Country Championships Kampala 2017. The 20-year-old captured the world youth 3000m title in 2013 and struck world U20 silver in 2014. Last season she improved her lifetime best in the 3000m to 8:32.73 and the 5000m to 14:36.80.
The Ethiopian challenge will be led by Gete Alemayeu, who will run her first race outside of her country.
The US contingent will be represented by marathoner Desirée Linden, who was seventh in the Olympic marathon in Rio de Janeiro and more recently finished fourth at last year’s Boston Marathon. Pole Matylda Kowal, who has a 3000m steeplechase best of 9:35.13, is the strongest European runner in the field.
Sara Dossena, who finished sixth in the New York Marathon in 2:29:39 in her debut over the distance last November after a successful career in triathlon, will be carrying Italy’s hopes. She was runner-up at the We run Rome New Year’s Eve race last Sunday.
Meanwhile, Italy’s new generation will be represented by 17-year-old Nadia Battocletti (the daughter of Italian cross country star Giuliano Battocletti), who took surprise bronze over 3000m at the European U20 championships last July. She was fifth in the U20 race at last month’s European Cross Country Championships, leading her team to a runner-up position.
Chelimo vs Moen in men’s contest
Paul Chelimo leads the men’s field. The US middle distance runner took Olympic 5000m bronze in 2016 and silver over this distance at the World Championships last year.
He’ll take on Norway’s Sondre Nordstad Moen, who clocked 59:47 in the Valencia Half Marathon in October and set a European marathon record with a 2:05:48 run in Fukuoka last December.
Moen, who is coached by Renato Canova, has a strong fondness for Italy.
“I have a close relationship to Italy and I have known my coach since 2010,” said Moen, who spent seven weeks training in Sestriere in the autumn. “I love everything in Italy, its history and its culture. I made my first training camp in Viareggio in 2008 to prepare for the World Cross Country Championships and I ran my first marathon in Florence in 2015.”
Italian hopes will rest with Yeman Crippa, the European U-23 5000m champion whose cross country pedigree includes U23 bronze medals from the 2016 and 2017 editions of the European Cross Country Championships. Crippa was fourth at the Boclassic 10km on New Year’s Eve, finishing ahead of Moen.
“I was a bit disappointed with my third place in Samorin but I won my tenth medal at the European Cross Country Championships,” Crippa said, “and I keep it in my bedroom together with the T-shirt my idol and friend Mo Farah gave me as a present last February at the Birmingham Indoor Grand Prix where I broke the 5000m Italian Indoor record.”
Another strong European in the field is Pole Krisztian Zalewski, silver medallist at the 2014 European championships in the 3000m steeplechase.
Italy’s Eyob Faniel and Alessandro Giacobazzi, who won the Venice and Turin marathons, respectively last autumn, will use the Campaccio as an important test in their build-up for spring marathons ahead of August’s European Championships in Berlin.
The U18 race will be dedicated to the memory of Sergio Meraviglia, the historic organiser of the Campaccio Cross Country race, who passed away at the age of 73 last September.
“We put together two international races worthy of the tradition of the Campaccio to honour the memory of Sergio Meraviglia,” said Technical Director Marcello Magnani. “The line-up is a mix of international stars, young rising stars and Italian top middle-distance runners.”
The Campaccio is organized by local club Unione Sportiva Sangiorgese, which will celebrate its 100th anniversary in 2022.
“We hope that many young spectators will attend our event,” said club president Claudio Pastori. “We are working to attract a new generation of fans, as they represent our future. We need their enthusiasm.”
Diego Sampaolo for the IAAF