(© Alfambra Fundación ANOC)
Santiponce (Seville), SpainKenya’s Leonard Komon and Vivian Cheruiyot captured victories in convincing fashion at the 29th ‘Cross Internacional de Itálica’ – the fifth leg of this season’s IAAF Cross Country Permit series - held Sunday (16).
In doing so Komon, who turned 23 last Monday, retained his title from last year ahead of Mathew Kisorio, also the runner-up in 2010. It was a perfect Cross Country session for Kenya as they took a clean sweep of medals in both categories, men and women. However, Masai lost her crown in favour of Cheruiyot after a thrilling battle between the two reigning World outdoor champions, Cheruiyot (5000m) and Masai (10,000m).??
Komon, back to winning mood??
Today’s was Komon’s first victory on the current Cross Country season following his two World records over 10 and 15Km on road in late 2010. The young Kenyan missed the bronze medal at last year’s World Championships in Bydgoszcz by just hundredths of a second and today’s outcome suggests he’s on the right path to come back to the podium as he did in Edinburgh three years ago.??
The men’s 10,800m contest opened quite cautiously with New Zealand’s Jake Robertson making the early pace. After a slow opening 2000m lap covered in 6:09 the African squad moved to the front with Kisorio, Komon and the 20-year-old Ethiopian Abera Kuma in the leading places.
The first serious movement came when Kisorio accelerated his pace 14 minutes into the race; his attack paid off immediately as first Eritrea’s World silver medallist Teklemariam Medhin and then the reigning World champion Joseph Ebuya began to lose metres. At halfway, the leading trio of Kisorio, Kuma and Komon had built a 15-second margin over Ebuya while Medhin travelled well behind them.
Kisorio’s terrific pace led him to cover successive laps in 5:57 and 5:51 and before the seventh kilometre point Kuma could not live with his pace. It became clear then that Kenya will prevail again in the guise of Kisorio and Komon.
The in-form Kisorio, whose father clinched the bronze medal at the XC Worlds back in 1983, pushed harder and harder and it seemed for a while that Komon would finally surrender. After running behind Kisorio for the whole race Komon made his move with 1200 left but Kisorio managed to remain at his shoulder just for 300m as entering the closing kilometre Komon broke away to build a sizeable margin enough to retain his last year’s win.
At the tape, eight seconds separated the first two (30:38 vs 30:46) while Macharinyang took third 23 seconds behind the winner. Ebuya had to settle for fifth just after a tight sprint finish with Kuma and Spain’s reigning European XC silver medallist Ayad Lamdassem came first European home in sixth well ahead (31:31 vs 31:52) of the European champion Serhiy Lebid who finished 12th.
Surprisngly, Medhin was never a factor and finished a disappointing 11th some 1:14 adrift Komon.
The winner declared: “Wow, today’s race was not precisely easy. My countrymate Kisorio proved to be in very good form and it was tough for me to hold off his challenge.”
After being silver medallist and twice fourth at the last World Cross Country championships, Komon reflected on his chances at the next edition in March in Punta Umbría. “OK, I can’t say now I’m going to be World champion this year but that’s my primary goal in 2011 and I’ll definitely go for it.” He also confirmed that his next race will be in Elgoibar (Spain) next Sunday.
?Cheruiyot takes down Masai – Women’ race??
Today’s Kenyan successful journey had begun with the women’s 8000m race.
Not even the late withdrawal of the reigning World Cross Country champion Emily Chebet due to an injury had changed a bit the forecast of a Kenyan win given the presence of Linet Masai, Vivian Cheruiyot and Pauline Korikwiang among others.
The 8000m contest opened not especially fast with all the favourites packed in a large group. For the delight of the numerous crowd assembled in the sunny afternoon, the early leader was Spain’s Alessandra Aguilar, who was joined at the forefront by Hungary’s Aniko Kalovics.
Just before halfway, 12 minutes into the race, the Kenyan armada moved up to the top in the guise of Masai, Cheruiyot, Korikwiang and Mercy Cherono; this quartet left well behind the rest of the leading pack in a matter of a few strides.
With some 3000m left Masai injected some additional speed and her three compatiots only could follow her in single file, the World 5000m champion Cheruiyot being the closest.
At the bell (2000m to go) the World 10,000m champion Masai led with a slight five-metre led on Cheruiyot while Korikwiang travelled another 10m adrift and the World Junior XC champion Cherono faltered a bit in fourth.
The 27-year-old Cheruiyot soon caught the defending champion Masai in the lead early inside the last lap and both offered a fascinating neck to neck duel for one kilometre just until Cheruiyot unleashed a devastanting change of rhythm with some 500m left. The long-legged Masai tried to increase her strides but Cheruiyot’s pace was just frantic, there was no catching her and she romped home unopposed in 26:02, three seconds ahead of Masai, taking this way some revenge from Masai’s win in Edinburgh last Saturday 8 January when Cheruiyot had to settle for third 12 seconds behind the reigning World XC silver medallist.
Korikwiang finished a lonesome third 25 seconds ahead the winner but herself eight seconds clear of Cherono to complete a clean sweep of medals for Kenya. First non-African home was Aguilar in sixth, just behind Ethiopia’s World Junior XC silver medallist Emebet Anteneh but two seconds ahead of Australia’s former World XC champion Benita Willis-Johnson.
A more than satisfied Cheruiyot said: “It’s true that Linet (Masai) had beaten me clearly in Edinburgh one week ago but it was very cold there and my performances are not very good on those circumstances. I prefer nice and sunny days like today’s. Thinking of this race, I knew that Linet and the other girls were very strong but I went for the win.”
Asked on her winter plans, Cheruiyot commented: “It’s for sure that I won’t do the indoor campaign but I still have to decide whether I’ll build up for the World XC Championships in Spain. I come back to Kenya now and I‘ll contest the Kenyan trials for the Worlds next 19 February if I finally decide to go for it.”
Emeterio Valiente for the IAAF
Men (10,000m) -? 1. Leonard Komon, KEN 30:38? 2. Mathew Kisorio, KEN 30:46? 3. Hosea Macharinyang, KEN 31:01? 4. Abera Kuma, ETH, 31:09? 5. Joseph Ebuya, KEN 31:09? 6. Ayad Lamdassem, ESP 31:21? 7. Kiprono Menjo, KEN 31:25? 8. Vincent Chepkok, KEN 31:32? 9. Tariku Bekele, ETH 31:36?10. Soyekwo Kibet, UGA 31:39
WOMEN (8000m) -? 1. Vivian Cheruiyot, KEN 26:02? 2. Linet Masai, KEN 26:05? 3. Pauline Korikwiang, KEN 26:27? 4. Mercy Cherono, KEN 26:35? 5. Emebet Anteneh, ETH 27:01? 6. Alessandra Aguilar, ESP 27:04? 7. Benita Willis, AUS 27:05? 8. Diana Martín, ESP 27:10? 9. Aniko Kalovics, HUN 27:34?10. Eunice Jepkorir, KEN 27:53