Previews29 Oct 2021

Ndikumwenayo and Ayeko ready to roll again in Soria


Thierry Ndikumwenayo in action in Soria (© Organisers)

The Cross Internacional de Soria, the third Gold standard meeting of this season’s World Athletics Cross Country Tour, will take place on Sunday (28) at the Monte Valonsadero circuit, a beautiful forest on the outskirts of Soria, well known for having been a frequent training venue for 1992 Olympic 1500m champion Fermín Cacho and 1997 and 1999 world marathon champion Abel Antón.

The men’s 10km contest features three top-10 finishers from the 2019 World Cross Country Championships: Ugandan duo Thomas and Joel Ayeko (no family ties) and Burundi’s Thierry Ndikumwenayo.

While Thomas Ayeko was forced to withdraw from the Amorebieta contest last week due to visa issues, it’s confirmed he will head the line-up on Sunday. Joel, meanwhile, made it to Amorebieta and finished fourth, so he will be eager to make it on to the podium in Soria.

Ndikumwenayo, who finished in between the two Ayekos in Aarhus two years ago, placed second in Soria in 2019. He will be making his first outing of the current cross-country campaign and will be joined by his younger compatriot Rodrigue Kwizera, who placed 11th at the 2019 World Cross.

Eritrea’s Yemane Hailesilassie, who finished fifth in the steeplechase at the Tokyo Olympics, proved to be in fine form last weekend in Amorebieta with a third-place finish and should once again be in contention for a podium placing in Soria.

Local hopes will rest with Ayad Lamdassem. The 40-year-old Spaniard will be contesting his first race since finishing fifth in the marathon at the Tokyo Olympics. Compatriot Daniel Mateo, a 2:08:22 marathon performer who placed 10th at the 2019 World Championships, will compete on his daily training venue.

The women’s 8km field is headed by recent Amorebieta winner Francine Niyomukunzi of Burundi, who’ll be contesting her fifth race of the month. Earlier in October she set a 10km lifetime best of 31:46 in the Italian city of Forli where she won ahead of Kenya’s Lucy Mawia Muli, another entrant for Sunday’s race. Ethiopia’s Ayel Likina Amebaw is another who should be in contention for victory in Soria.

Portugal’s Mariana Machado, the 2019 European U20 cross-country bronze medallist, will be joined by compatriot Lia Lemos. Both 20-year-olds clashed recently at a 5km road race in Lisbon with Machado winning by four seconds in 16:14.

Soria-born Marta Pérez, who set a lifetime best of 4:00.12 to finish ninth in the Olympic 1500m final earlier this year, leads the local contingent.

Notable past victors in Soria include the likes of Ethiopia’s 2000 Olympic 5000m champion Million Wolde, Kenya’s 2001 world 10,000m champion Charles Kamathi, 1997 world 10,000m champion Sally Barsosio, Eritrea’s 2007 world cross-country champion Zersenay Tadese, 2010 world cross-country champion Joseph Ebuya and 2009 world 10,000m champion Linet Masai.

Weather forecasters predict a rainy and windy day on Sunday but a pleasant temperature of 15C by the time of the event.

Emeterio Valiente for World Athletics