SEVILLE, Spain, January 16- Linet Masai turned tables on arch rival and triple world champion, Vivian Cheruiyot during the latest instalment of their intense showdown that played out at the Cross Internacional de Itálica in Spain.
The men’s race was won by Geoffrey Kipsang, the reigning World Cross junior champion to seal the Kenyan 1-2 at the event that marked the sixth leg of this season’s IAAF Permit Series.
Masai and Cheruiyot can arguably be regarded as the current world’s best female distance athletes with a never ending list of accolades to their credit.
They also were the last victors here, Masai in 2010 and Cheruiyot – from Masai – last year.
“I felt very comfortable throughout,” the long-legged Masai told IAAF. “I began conservatively but then decided to push hard as Vivian has beaten me several times over the closing metres.”
The 8Km contest opened quite cautiously, Spain’s Alessandra Aguilar – a 2:26:58 marathoner – leading the first six minutes of the race.
By then, the 22-year-old Masai ran at a pedestrian pace for her in the middle of the pack. Shortly afterwards Masai moved to the front with ease and only Cheruiyot and the Ethiopian pair of Wude Ayalew and Hiwot Ayalew could live with her frantic pace.
However, this four-unit heading group was to be short-lived as Masai broke away before the third kilometre to gradually increase her advantage over the chasing group.
Running in her usual majestic and effortless style, Masai captivated the crowd assembled to prove the uncharacteristic mud was no barrier for her.
Over the last lap Hiwot Ayalew lost ground and the attention turned to the fight for the second place between the reigning World 5000, 10,000m and Cross Country champion Cheruiyot and Wude Ayalew, the 2009 World 10,000m bronze medallist.
At the tape, Masai (25:42) had built a massive 18-second margin on Cheruiyot (26:00) who prevailed over the Ethiopian after a fierce fight, both athletes credited with the same time.
Masai recorded her second win of the current XC season after her victory at the Atapuerca permit last November.
In the men’s race Kipsang produced a stunning display of front running for a gun to tape victory in 30:53 with compatriot Albert Rop (35:57) topping double Commonwealth champion, Uganda’s Moses Kipsiro (31:03) to finish second.
“I knew the level would be huge today but I was confident of my winning chances at any moment,” said Kipsang.
“In the absence of the Cross Country worlds, I’ll be focused on the London Olympics where I would like to make the Kenyan team over 10,000 metres. I’ll next run next Sunday at the Elgoibar Cross Country,” concluded Kipsang, who holds fine 27:06:35 (10,000m) and 59:31 Half Marathon performances.