Imane Merga victorious at the Cross of Ala dei Sardi (© Elio Pancera)
Ethiopia’s Imane Merga, the fresh IAAF World Cross Country champion from last week in Punta Umbria, took a narrow win over Kenya’s Caleb Ndiku, World Junior Cross Country champion and World Junior 1500m champion in 2010, at the 35th edition of the Trofeo Alasport in Alà dei Sardi, a small village in Sardinia where the cross country season traditionally comes to an end just a few days after the IAAF World Cross Country Championships.
This year the Alà dei Sardi race attracted the top-two of last week’s World Cross Country Championhisps in Punta Umbria fulfilling its tradition as one of the best Italian cross country races.
It was not an easy win for 5000 metres Diamond Race winner Merga who managed to hold off Ndiku by three seconds and Punta Umbria’s World silver medallist Paul Tanui by four seconds in a close finish. Again the young Ethiopian star showed his trademark final kick which enabled him to lift his first World cross country title.
Merga romped home in 32:11 to take the men’s 11km race ahead of Ndiku who crossed the finish-line in 32:14.
“My goal is to win the 10,000 metres in Daegu. My first 5000 metres race on the track is scheduled on 29 May in Hengelo,” said Merga.
European 10,000 metres bronze medallist Daniele Meucci from Italy finished sixth in 34:01 and first among European runners.
Kibet over Utura
Silvia Jebiwott Kibet, World silver medallist in the 5000 metres in Berlin, took a narrow edge on former World Junior silver medallist Sule Utura of Ethiopia. Both runners crossed the finish-line sharing the same time of 18:02 in the 5.5km women’s race after a close and exciting race.
Last year’s IAAF World Junior Cross Country and 3000 metres World Junior champion Mercy Cherono finished third in 18:05. Nadja Ejjafini, this year’s Italian cross country champion, was the first European in fourth place in 18:33.
The famous Sardinian race which attracts many Ethiopian and Kenyan World and Olympic medallists every year, was held for the first time 35 years ago under the initiative of local passionate organizer Antonello Baltolu. Merga and Kibet have added their names to the list of winners who have made the history of the Trofeo Alasport.
In the past years stars like John Ngugi, Fita Bayesa, Salah Hissou, Khalid Skah, Paul Tergat, Paul Kosgei, Richard Limo, the brothers Kenenisa and Tariku Bekele, Tegla Loroupe, Merima Denboba and Gete Wami made the trip to Sardinia to contribute to the proud history of this race.
Diego Sampaolo for the IAAF
Results of the 35th edition of the Trofeo Alà dei Sardi:
Men’s race (11 km):
1 Imane Merga (Kenya) 32:11
2 Caleb Ndiku (Kenya) 32:14
3 Paul Tanui (Kenya) 32:15
4 John Kipchoech (Kenya) 32:20
5 John Koech (Kenya) 33:34
6 Daniele Meucci (Italy) 34:01
7 Peter Bii (Kenya) 34:30
8 Stefano La Rosa (Italy) 34:32
9 Paul Koech (Kenya) 34:37
10 Gianmarco Buttazzo (Italy) 34:52
Women’s race (5.5 km):
1 Sylvia Kibet (Kenya) 18:02
2 Sule Utura Gedo (Ethiopia) 18:02
3 Mercy Cherono (Kenya) 18:05
4 Nadja Ejjafini (Italy) 18:33
5 Siham Hilali (Morocco) 19:02
6 Claudette Mukasakindi (Randa) 19:10
7 Laila Soufiane (Italy) 19:12
8 Angelina Nyrasmbimana (Randa) 19:18