NAIROBI, Kenya, December 8 – World Cross Country bronze medallist Linet Masai’s excellent early season form continued with a stunning win at the 27th ‘Cross Internacional de la Constitución’ held in Spain on Sunday.
The 10,000 metres world junior record holder built a nearly 40-second gap over her closest pursuer, the reigning Olympic 3000m Steeplechase silver medalist Eunice Jepkorir, to win in 18:59 minutes.
Having turned 19 two days earlier, the teenager decided to extend her birthday celebrations and with the clock reading 8:30 minutes the talented had edged into a clear lead. It was a position she did not relinquish as none of her quality rivals could live with her hot pace.
After Masai broke away from the rest, it was Ethiopia’s Werknesh Kidane who ran closest to the long-legged Kenyan with Jepkorir a solitary third.
But the diminutive Ethiopian was making her first cross country appearance for three years – she has given birth to two children in recent years – and was overtaken by Jepkorir with 2000m remaining.
By then Masai’s advantage had raised to 28 seconds and it became clear that barring disaster the Olympic fourth place finisher in the 10,000m would be an overwhelming winner. Masai startled the crowd gathered in Alcobendas with her majestic style and broadened her lead to a massive 39 seconds at the finish line.
Jepkorir completed a brilliant race as she ran two seconds faster today than last year on the same circuit while Kidane conquered the minor place on the podium some 51 seconds adrift the victor.
In the men’s race, Ethiopia’s Gebregziabher Gebremariam captured a thrilling sprint victory beating fellow Ethiopian Tariku Bekele with only one second separating the pair.
Shortly after the 10,100m race started a fascinating showdown between Kenya and Ethiopia got underway.
The late addition to the field of Vincent Chepkor, the runner-up in Llodio, had strengthened the Kenyan squad but it was Gebremariam who made the main selection in the opening kilometres.
By the 3000m point seven athletes remained in contention with only Spain’s Alberto García embedded into the African party but the 2005 European cross country silver medallist lost ground shortly afterwards.
At halfway Tariku Bekele went to the front closely followed by Gebremariam and the Kenyan trio of Mark Kiptoo, Chepkor and Kiprono Menjo, with Eritrea’s Kidane Tadese for company as well.
It was Zersenay Tadese’s younger brother who took charge of the race with the clock reading 20 minutes but his pace only left a fading Menjo behind.
The outcome of the race promised to be full of excitement and it let nobody down as the closing 150m witnessed a spectacular neck-to-neck with Gebremariam prevailing over Bekele by one second (29:08-29:09) while Kiptoo had to settle for third two seconds behind the winner.
A more than satisfied Gebremariam declared: “Today’s is a quite important win for me since I suffered an injury last summer and I couldn’t compete at the Olympics. It was really frustrating to watch the Games on TV instead of trying to improve on my fourth place from Athens.”