Rodrigue Kwizera wins the Cross Internacional de Soria (© Asociacion ADOC)
Rodrigue Kwizera, the current men’s leader in the World Athletics Cross Country Tour, will face three up-and-coming distance stars when the series of Gold meetings heads to Albufeira for the Almond Blossom Cross Country on Sunday (27).
The 22-year-old from Burundi, who placed 11th at the 2019 World Cross and 15th over 10,000m at the World Championships later that year, has been a revelation this cross-country season. He won in Soria, San Sebastian, Seville and Venta de Banos in the final few months of 2021. He would have also won in Alcobendas, but was disqualified for not wearing the vest of his Spanish club.
His only loss in the series so far was in Atapuerca, where he was beaten in a close finish. Kwizera has raced once so far in 2022, producing a convincing victory at the European Champion Clubs Cross Country in Oeiras, Portugal, earlier this month.
He’ll return to Portugal this weekend where he hopes to once again end up on the top of the podium in the men’s 8.45km race, but three young talents will be eager to perform just as well.
Kenya’s Benson Kiplangat, the world U20 5000m champion, will be contesting his first race outside of his home country. The 18-year-old struck global age-group gold on home turf last year, clocking 13:20.37 for 5000m in the altitude of Nairobi and beating a high-quality field.
Uganda’s Rodgers Kibet featured in that race in Nairobi, placing seventh. Still just 17 years of age, Kibet placed third in a high-quality race in Elgoibar earlier this year and finished second last week in Hannut.
Eritrea’s Habtom Samuel, the world U20 3000m bronze medallist, finished third in Hannut, just a few seconds behind Kibet. He also featured in the World U20 Championships 5000m final, finishing just ahead of Kibet on that occasion.
Portugal’s Samuel Barata leads the home challenge. The 28-year-old, who last year won national titles over 10,000m and at cross country, recently improved his 10km best to 28:12.
Eritrea’s Rahel Daniel and Ethiopia’s Likina Amebaw could find themselves at the top of the Cross Country Tour standings after this weekend’s race in Albufeira.
The duo have clashed twice in recent months with Daniel coming out on top on both occasions. She won in Atapuerca in November, when Amebaw placed 11th, and then she finished fifth in Seville one week later, 10 places and almost two minutes ahead of her Ethiopian rival.
Daniel will start as the slight favourite in Albufeira, given she has been more consistent with podium finishes this season, but Amebaw is the defending champion in Albufeira and will be keen to win again.
Other contenders include Morocco’s Siham Hilali, Kenya’s Betty Cherotich and Ethiopia’s Tigst Getnet.
The event will be streamed live on YouTube. The women's race starts at 11:00 local time and the men's race begins at 12:00 local time.