Beatrice Chebet wins at the 18th Cross Internacional de Atapuerca (© Ricardo Ordonez)
Kenya's world 5000m silver medallist Beatrice Chebet and Italy's European 10,000m champion Yeman Crippa will be in the spotlight at the 91st edition of the Cinque Mulini in San Vittore Olona, the 12th leg of the World Athletics Cross Country Tour Gold, on Sunday (15).
Three of the top four athletes in the standings of last season’s World Cross Country Tour will compete in the women's race.
The line-up is led by Chebet, who won her world silver medal in the 5000m in Oregon last July. The 22-year-old went on to win 5000m gold at the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham as well as the Diamond League title in Zurich. She claimed world U20 cross country gold in Aarhus in 2019 and set her PBs of 8:27.14 in the 3000m in Lausanne in 2022 and 14:34.55 in the 5000m in Oslo in 2021.
During the current World Cross Country Tour season she has won in Atapuerca, last November. Last year she also finished second in Elgoibar and Hannut, and third at Campaccio.
Her compatiot Lucy Mawia leads the current standings of the World Cross Country Tour with three wins in Bydgoszcz, Soria and Alcobendas, plus a third place in Atapuerca. She finished second overall to Rahel Daniel in last season’s Tour.
Ethiopia's Likina Amebaw finished fourth in the Tour standings in 2022. Last year she won the European Club Cross Country Championships in Oeiras and finished second in Albufeira and third in Serradilla. She clocked a half marathon PB of 1:09:01 in Warsaw and ran 31:40 in the 10km on the road in Ibiza.
The African contingent is completed by Francine Nyomokunzi from Burundi, who finished fifth at Campaccio this year and holds a half marathon PB of 1:08:21.
The leading European athlete in the field is German 3000m steeplechase specialist Elena Burkard, who finished fourth in the mixed relay at the European Cross Country Championships last December. She finished second in the 3000m steeplechase at the European Team Championships in Chorzow in 2021 and sixth in the same discipline at the European Championships in Munich.
Italian hopes are led by European U23 team silver medallist Giovanna Selva, Micol Majori and Elisa Palmero.
In the men's race, Crippa will be aiming to become the first Italian athlete to win the Cinque Mulini since 1986, when Olympic 10,000m champion Alberto Cova triumphed in the famous Five Mills race ahead of another Olympic gold medallist, Gelindo Bordin.
Crippa showed his good form recently when finishing second to Oscar Chelimo at the Boclassic 10km road race and third behind Rodrigue Kwizera and Birhanu Balew at the Campaccio cross country. Crippa enjoyed a successful 2022 during which he won 5000m bronze and 10,000m gold at the European Championships in Munich, becoming the fourth Italian athlete to claim the continental title over this distance after Cova (Athens 1982), Stefano Mei (Stuttgart 1986) and Salvatore Antibo (Split 1990). He also broke the Italian half marathon record by clocking 59:26 in Naples last February and finished fourth at the European Cross Country Championships in Venaria Reale, contributing to the Italian team's silver medal win.
After the Campaccio race, Crippa started a training stint in Monte Gordo in Portugal to increase his mileage ahead of his marathon debut in Milan on 2 April. In his previous appearances in San Vittore Olona, Crippa finished fourth in 2017, fifth in 2018 and sixth in 2019 and 2020.
"It is never easy to win an international cross country race," said Crippa, who added that his life has changed since his European title win in Munich. "I love running competitions in Italy, where I have a special relationship with my fans, who always come to support me. I hope to offer spectators a great performance."
Crippa will take on a strong line-up of young African runners. In recent years, the Cinque Mulini has focused on the next generation like Soufiane El Bakkali, Selemon Barega and Jacob Kiplimo, who started their careers in San Vittore Olona and went on to win medals at the World Championships and the Olympic Games. This year will continue with Kenya’s Gideon Kipkertich Rono, who will run his first cross country race in Italy. Rono, who was born in 2003, set the second-fastest U20 time in the world last year, clocking 27:11.03 in Abashiri, Japan. He also ran 13:16.51 in the 5000m in Japan last May.
Another athlete to watch is Salaheddine Ben Yazide from Morocco, who won 3000m steeplechase bronze at the World Athletics U20 Championships Cali 22 and could follow in the footsteps of his compatriot El Bakkali, who finished second at Cinque Mulini in 2017 behind Barega.
The line-up also features Kenya's Benson Lingokal, who finished fourth in the 10,000m at the Kip Keino Classic, plus Egide Ntakarutimana from Burundi, who clocked 13:08.43 in the 5000m in Rovereto last August and finished fifth at Campaccio on 6 January, and his compatriot Jean De Dieu Butoyi, who won the short course cross country race at this year’s edition of Campaccio. They will be joined by Sweden's Emil Millan De La Oliva, who finished 11th in the U23 race at the European Cross Country Championships in 2021 and ninth at this year's Campaccio.
Other Italian runners in the field include Neka Crippa, team silver medallist at the European Cross Country Championships in Venaria Reale, plus Luca Alfieri, Enrico Vecchi and Marco Fontana Granotto.
The list of athletes who have won at the Cinque Mulini features Billy Mills, Gaston Roelants, Kipchoge Keino, Filbert Bayi, Alberto Cova, Paul Kipkoech, John Ngugi, Moses Tanui, Fita Bayisa, Khalid Skah, Paul Tergat, Kenenisa Bekele, Saif Saaeed Shaheen, Muktar Edris, Selemon Barega and Jacob Kiplimo in the men’s race, and Paola Pigni, Gabriella Dorio, Grete Waitz, Merima Denboba, Maryam Yusuf Jamal, Faith Kipyegon and Letesenbet Gidey in the women’s race. Marathon world record-holder Eliud Kipchoge finished second in 2008 behind Zersenay Tadese.
Diego Sampaolo for World Athletics