Previews26 Nov 2021

Ayeko and Tesfu poised to strike in Alcobendas


Uganda's Thomas Ayeko (© AFP / Getty Images)

Uganda’s Thomas Ayeko will be the star name at the Cross Internacional de la Constitución, the sixth Golden leg of the this season’s World Athletics Cross Country Tour, in Alcobendas on the outskirts of Madrid on Sunday (28).

The 29-year-old will take on the tough up-and-down 10.1km circuit, competing on Spanish soil for the fifth weekend in a row and aiming for his first victory of the season. Ayeko, who finished seventh at the 2019 World Cross Country Championships in Aarhus, kicked off his cross-country campaign with runner-up spots in Soria and San Sebasián, finishing behind this season’s sensation Rodrigue Kwizera on both occasions. Ayeko then faced the highest quality fields of the season so far in Atapuerca and Seville, placing fourth and fifth respectively.

Ayeko’s stiffest opponents should be Spain’s Carlos Mayo and Abdessadam Oukhelfen. The versatile and consistent Mayo, who last year set a half marathon PB of 1:00:06, is the national cross-country champion and finished 13th in the 10,000m at the Tokyo Olympics. He finished in the top 10 in San Sebastián, Atapuerca and Seville, and has progressively finished closer to Ayeko in each of those races.

Oukhelfen, the European U23 cross-country bronze medallist, comfortably finished ahead of Mayo in San Sebastián and Atapuerca but was 23 seconds in arrears in Seville last Sunday.

Watch out too for Spain’s multiple European cross-country medallist and European indoor 3000m champion Adel Mechaal.

The women’s 8.1km event looks similarly competitive and features Eritrea’s Dolshi Tesfu, Kenya’s Lucy Mawia and Ethiopia’s Ayel Likina.

While Tesfu opened her cross-country season with a second-place finish in Amorebieta, Mawia and Likina finished 1-2 in Soria. The three of them then clashed in Seville where Tesfu finished ninth, just three seconds ahead of Mawia with Likina further back.

There, the Spain-based Likina finished just ahead Irene Sánchez-Escribano, the Spanish steeplechase champion who has now fully recovered from the injury that forced her to miss the Tokyo Olympics and is steadily rounding into form.

Morocco’s 35-year-old Siham Hilali, an Olympic and world indoor 1500m finalist back in 2008, should also be in contention on Sunday.

Notable past winners here include Eritreans Zersenay Tadese (2005) and Teklemariam Medhin (2012), Kenya’s Joseph Ebuya (2007 and 2010), Uganda’s newly-minted world half marathon record-holder Jacob Kiplimo (2018), Ethiopia’s Meselech Melkamu (2005 and 2006), Vivian Cheruiyot (2009) and fellow Kenyan Linet Masai (2008 and 2015).

The weather forecast predicts dry conditions and cloudy skies with temperatures ranging between 7-9C.

Emeterio Valiente for World Athletics

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