Previews11 Nov 2022

Kwizera and Chebet ready to strike in Atapuerca


Rodrigue Kwizera wins in Amorebieta (© Asociación ADOC)

The Cross Internacional de Atapuerca, the fifth Gold standard meeting of this season's World Athletics Cross Country Tour, will be held on Sunday (13) near the northern city of Burgos and features the most prominent line-up so far this campaign.

The men's 9.75km contest looks set to be a thrilling encounter between Burundi’s Rodrigue Kwizera and Ethiopia's Addisu Yihune with Eritrea's Merhawi Mebrahtu expected to be a dangerous outsider.

Kwizera, last season's Cross Country Tour winner, is unbeaten so far this season following his wins in Castellón on 16 October, Amorebieta one week later and a 10km road race held in Alcobendas last Sunday where the 23-year-old clocked 27:25 on a downhill circuit. Kwizera finished runner-up in Atapuerca last year and will be eager to go one place higher on Sunday.

World U20 5000m champion Yihune proved to be in top form last Sunday by taking an overwhelming win in San Sebastián and he will likely be a fierce rival for Kwizera. Mebrahtu, who took world U20 silver behind Yihune in Cali earlier this year, showed fine fitness as well in Soria as he was only beaten by the in-form Thierry Ndikumwenayo. The emerging Eritrean will be joined by his compatriot Awet Habte, winner in Amorebieta last year and holder of a 2:06:25 marathon lifetime best set earlier this year in Seville.

The high-calibre Ugandan squad will be led by teenagers Peter Maru and Dismas Yeko. Maru finished a creditable third last Sunday in Soria, two places ahead of Yeko. They will be joined by the experienced Thomas Ayeko, who was sixth in Soria.

Kenya will be represented by 2021 world U20 5000m bronze medallist Levy Kibet, who is fresh from a convincing victory in Bydgoszcz three weeks ago.

Other potential contenders include Spain’s Nassim Hassaous, who was fourth in Amorebieta and seventh in Soria; Roberto Alaiz, fourth last Sunday in San Sebastián; world 1500m bronze medallist Mohamed Katir; and Ben Connor, who represented Britain at the 2019 World Championships and Tokyo Olympic Games.

Kenya's world 5000m silver medallist Beatrice Chebet is the standout athlete in the women's race. The 22-year-old was runner-up last year in Atapuerca and Elgoibar and then finished third in Seville, so Atapuerca could be the venue of her first success on Spanish ground. Chebet enjoyed a successful track season earlier this year, winning the 5000m at the African Championships, Commonwealth Games and Wanda Diamond League Final.

Her stiffest opponent in Sunday’s 7.81km event should be Olympic steeplechase champion Peruth Chemutai. The Ugandan’s track campaign was cut short after the Commonwealth Games after she suffered a heavy fall in the steeplechase final, but three months on from that she is ready to race again. Sunday's race will mark the second clash between Chebet and Chemutai after their cross country duel in Hannut last February when the Ugandan won and finished 13 seconds ahead of the Kenyan.

Other notable entrants are Kenyan's Lucy Mawia and Purity Chepkirui. Mawia already has wins in Bydgoszcz and Soria to her credit so far this season, while world U20 1500m bronze medallist Chepkirui won last Sunday in San Sebastián where Ethiopia's 2018 world U20 3000m silver medallist Meselu Berhe, also set to compete on Sunday, finished second.

Turkey’s Yasemin Can, winner of seven European titles on the track and cross country, is also one to watch. Italy's Nadia Battocletti, who finished seventh over 5000m at the Tokyo Olympics, should also be in contention for a top-five finish, as will Israel's Selamawit Teferi, also an Olympic finalist over 5000m.

More than 6400 runners from 16 countries will take part in the event which promises to be an athletics festival on Sunday. Weather forecasters predict a sunny but windy day with temperatures ranging between 14-16C during the races.

Emeterio Valiente for World Athletics