Jacob Kiplimo wins the Cinque Mulini (© Giancarlo Colombo)
Reigning world half-marathon champion Jacob Kiplimo from Uganda will be in the spotlight at the 64th edition of the Campaccio in San Giorgio su Legnano when the first leg of the World Athletics Cross Country Permit series takes place on Sunday (21).
The popular Northern Italian cross-country race was originally scheduled for its traditional 6 January date, but it was postponed until the end of March due to the global Covid-19 pandemic. For the first time in its long history, the Campaccio will be held in spring.
Kiplimo won the world half-marathon title in Gdynia in 58:49 last October and ran the second-fastest time in history over the 21.1km distance with 57:37 in Valencia last December. The 20-year-old also set PBs on the track last year, clocking 7:26.64 in the 3000m in Rome and 12:48.63 in the 5000m in Ostrava. In 2019 he won the world cross-country silver medal in Aarhus. In the build-up to the Campaccio, Kiplimo dominated the men’s race at the Italian Cross Country Club Championships in Campi Bisenzio near Florence in rainy conditions.
Kiplimo will race against his younger brother Oscar Chelimo, who won the BOclassic 5km World Athletics Label road race in Bolzano last December. In 2018 Chelimo finished seventh in the 5000m at the World Athletics U20 Championships in Tampere and won the 3000m at the Olympic Youth Games in Buenos Aires. One year later, the 19-year-old won the world under-20 cross-country bronze medal in Aarhus and finished fifth in the 5000m at the African Games in Rabat.
Another Ugandan runner in the line-up is 2017 and 2018 world mountain running silver medallist Joel Ayeko.
Last year’s surprise Campaccio winner Mogos Tuemay will return to San Giorgio su Legnano to defend his title. The Ethiopian runner set his 10,000m PB in Hengelo in 2019 with 27:23.49 and finished 18th at the World Athletics Cross Country Championships in Aarhus in 2019.
The top Italian runner is Eyob Faniel, who broke Stefano Baldini’s national marathon record with 2:07:19 in Seville last year. Faniel improved Rachid Berradi’s long-standing Italian half-marathon record with 1:00:07 at the Tuscany Camp Half Marathon in Siena at the end of February. Faniel also won the 2019 BOclassic road race and equalled Daniele Meucci’s 10km national record with 28:08 at the San Silvestre Vallecana in Madrid last December.
“I have always used cross-country competitions as preparation for the marathon,” said Faniel. “I finished ninth in 2017 and 10th in 2018 in my previous two appearances at the Campaccio. This year I am in different form, as I trained for shorter distances to prepare for the half-marathon. The turning point in my career was my win at the Boclassic in Bolzano in 2019.”
Faniel will battle for top place among Italian runners against Iliass Aouani, who won the national individual cross country title in Campi Bisenzio last week. Aouani, who graduated in engineering at the Syracuse University in New York, finished fourth at the 2019 World University Games in Naples in the 10,000m and equalled the national indoor mile record with 4:00.07 last year in Boston.
Other Italian runners to watch out for are Yohanes Chiappinelli, who won the European bronze medal in the 3000m steeplechase in Berlin in 2018, plus 2017 European indoor 3000m finalist Yassin Bouih, 2019 world mountain running silver medallist Cesare Maestri and 2017 world mountain running gold medallist Francesco Puppi.
In the women’s race, Lilian Kasait Rengeruk from Kenya will be bidding to win the Campaccio title for the second time, three years after her triumph in 2018. Rengeruk won the world cross country bronze medal in 2017 and finished fifth in the 5000m at the 2019 World Athletics Championships in Doha with her PB of 14:36.05.
Rengeruk will take on Winfred Mutile Yavi, who finished fourth in the 3000m steeplechase in Doha and won the past two editions of the Cinque Mulini Cross Country Permit race in San Vittore Olona in 2019 and 2020. Yavi clocked a world all-time best in the indoor 2000m steeplechase with 5:45.09 in Lievin last February.
The line-up also features Ethiopia’s Tsehay Gemechu, who finished sixth at the 2019 World Athletics Cross Country Championships in Aarhus.
Nadia Battocletti leads the Italian contingent. Battocletti won two consecutive European under-20 cross-country gold medals and the European under-20 silver medal in the 5000m in 2019. The daughter of former Italian cross-country star Giuliano Battocletti finished sixth in last year’s edition of the Campaccio. She won her first national senior cross-country title in Campi Bisenzio last weekend after being sidelined by an injury problem at the end of January.
The other top Italian runners are Ludovica Cavalli, who won the Italian under-23 titles in the 1500m and 5000m last year and in the 3000m indoors in 2021, plus 3000m steeplechase specialist Martina Merlo (PB 9:41.06).
“Despite the restrictions due to the global pandemic, we managed to put together a world-class field. We are proud to announce that the special guest will be fresh European 60m champion Marcell Jacobs, who will offer his support for all athletes,” said Campaccio Technical Director Marcello Magnani.
Claudio Pastori, President of the local Unione Sportiva Sangiorgese, said: “We are determined to organise the Campaccio race this year. It is important to give a message of hope to the younger generation in this difficult period.”
Diego Sampaolo for World Athletics