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Wangari triumphs in Belgium

NAIROBI, Kenya, January 26 – Margaret Wangari Muriuki produced a thrilling sprint finish to win the Lotto Cross Cup at the European Cross Country Permit meet in Belgium on Sunday.

Wangare edged past Ethiopia’s Mimi Belete in the last few metres to win in 18:15.

Ethiopia gained some measure of revenge in the men’s race when Dino Sefer beat Kenyan Charles Kibet Chepkurui in a sprint finish to win in 32:57. Kibet clocked33 minutes while albert Kuma was fourth.

Ethiopians Meseret Mengistu and Mimi Belete set the early pace in the women’s race with Wangari the only athlete able to keep up with their furious pace.

With 300m to go before the finish Mengistu lost balance and fell, and the final sprint between Belete and Wangari was won by the Kenyan by the smallest of margins.

“I’m not a sprint finisher”, said Mimi Belete. “The level was very high today and I was with the leading group all the time. This is a great result for me.”

Wangari spoke very confidently after winning. “The race was very fast but I like it when the pace is pushed hard. I have run many cross country races this winter in Europe and I return to Kenya confidently about my form. I’ll have to prove it in the trials now.”

In the men’s race, a leading group of six athletes forged ahead at the halfway mark. Ethiopians Sefer, Dame Tasama and Albert Kuma had done most of the work in front while Kenyans Charles Chepkok and Charles Kibet Chepkurui and Belgian Pieter Desmet just tried to follow the pace that was very fast indeed.

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In the penultimate lap, Sefer accelerated once more and Chepkurui was the only athlete to hang on. Sefer then started his sprint 600metres from the finish line and finally carved out a few seconds margin of victory over his Kenyan opponent.

Last week he finished second in the Ouest France Cross at Le Mans and today he took an emphatic first international victory. “I’m very happy,” said Sefer. “The race was very fast and the field was strong. I’m glad that I was able to increase the pace all the time.”

Chepkurui, 15th at the World Junior Cross Country Championships in 2008 in Edinburgh, was not disappointed with his result.

“This was only my second competition this winter. I’m happy that I could stay with the pace that never slowed down actually. Now my preparation continues for the Kenyan trials. I definitely want to be in the team for the World Championships in Amman.”

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