Tariku Bekele the commanding winner in Llodio (Mikel Salanova) © Copyright
Preview Alcobendas, Spain

Tariku Bekele, the favourite in Alcobendas - PREVIEW

Ethiopia’s World Junior 5000m track champion Tariku Bekele will start as the clear-cut favourite at the 25th Cross Internacional de la Constitución’ to be held in Alcobendas, on the outskirts of Madrid, on Sunday 3 December.

The 19-year-old rising star will be looking to add another win following a convincing victory last Sunday in Llodio – IAAF xc permit.

Armed with a budget of US$120,000, race elite coordinator José Ramón García has managed to put together a quality bunch of seven Africans on the men’s side who might be threatened by Spain’s European 10,000m bronze medallist Juan Carlos de la Ossa.

Men's race – Who can stop Tariku?

Kenenisa Bekele’s younger brother has spent the whole week in his European base of Italy and will be eager to give Ethiopia top spot in Alcobendas for the first time. To accomplish that feat Tariku will be accompanied by fellow Ethiopian Abraham Cherkos Feleke, 17, who is the World Youth 3000m champion and finished second behind Tariku in Beijing in the World Junior 5000m. In Llodio last Sunday he finished tenth in what was his European cross country debut.

Eritrea fields an exceptionally strong squad comprising Yonas Kifle, Samuel Tsegay, Tesfayohannes Mesfen and Kidane Tadesse, who is the younger brother of World 20km champion Zersenay Tadesse. Mesfen came ninth at this year’s World Cross Country in Fukuoka (long race) and will compete for the first time since his 21th place (59:29) at the IAAF World 20km championships held in Debrecen in early October. The other three Madrid-based Eritreans recorded third (Kifle), fifth (Tsegay) and ninth (Tadesse jr.) in Llodio, so their challenge to the Ethiopian pair should be strong.

Completing the African contingent will be Kenya’s John Kibowen, the 1998 and 2000 World Cross Country short race champion who fell at the start of the last lap in Llodio which prevented him finishing better than eleventh.

De la Ossa set for the Europeans

Spain’s reigning European 10,000m bronze medallist Juan Carlos de la Ossa has finally opted to contest the European Cross Country Championships to be held in San Giorgio Su Legnano (Italy) in nine day’s time. His respectable seventh place in Llodio, sandwiched between a bunch of world class Africans, was decisive in his decision as the 30-year-old confirmed:

“I had ruled out my presence at the Europeans some weeks ago due to several circumstances as my father passed away last month, I suffered injuries…but I performed pretty well in Llodio last Sunday, and the Spanish Federation asked me to be a member of the team and I said ‘yes, it’s a pleasure for me to wear the national vest’. I had signed up for Alcobendas permit last month and so I’ll run this Sunday although it’s only seven days prior to the Europeans but I hope this outing helps me to regain my best form.”

De la Ossa has been selected to represent his country alongside José Manuel Martínez, Antonio Jiménez, Carlos Castillejo, Eliseo Martín and Raúl Caballero but the former double (2003/04) European cross country silver medallist will be the only one of this squad on show this Sunday.

Other top athletes attending Sunday’s event are Spain’s reigning European XC silver medallist Alberto García, José Ríos, Arturo Casado and Ricardo Serrano, Portugal’s 38-year-old Eduardo Henriques and Morocco’s Hicham Chatt.

Women’s race – Melkamu, overwhelming favourite

Would anyone bet against Ethiopia’s Meselech Melkamu? Following her 21-second win over Kenya’s Vivian Cheruiyot in Llodio it seems rather unlikely that the reigning double World Cross Country bronze medallist and last year’s winner here will threatened this Sunday.

The line-up of opponents includes Cheruiyot, eighth in the short race at this year’s World Cross, plus Eritrea’s Simret Sultan, who was fourth last year in Alcobendas.

European champion on show

Reigning European 5000m track champion Marta Domínguez will carry the local hopes as the six athletes selected for the Europeans headed by Rosa Morató will take a break from competition this weekend. The 31-year-old Spaniard clinched a win on 5 November in a low-key national cross country permit in Atapuerca (Spain) but has refused to compete at the European Cross Country Championships next weekend as she has plans a quiet winter. Her season’s primary goal is on the track at the IAAF World Championships in Athletics to be held in Osaka (Japan) next summer.

Emeterio Valiente for the IAAF