Peruth Chemutai wins the CrossCup in Hannut (© David Pintens for CrossCup)
The Cross Internacional de Itálica in Santiponce on the outskirts of the Spanish city of Seville – the sixth Gold standard meeting in the current World Athletics Cross Country Tour – always boasts a mouth-watering line-up, and this year’s race on Sunday (20) is no exception.
The men’s 10.1km contest features world 10,000m silver medallist Stanley Waithaka of Kenya, who finished second in Oregon to take his first senior global medal.
He will face stiff opposition from the first four finishers at last weekend’s Cross Country Tour race in Atapuerca in the form of Thierry Ndikumwenayo, Kenya's Levy Kibet, Burundi’s Rodrigue Kwizera and Eritrea's Merhawi Mebrahtu.
After living in the country for eight years, Ndikumwenayo was granted Spanish nationality 10 days ago, but the 25-year-old from Burundi is not yet eligible to represent Spain in international events. He proved to be in stellar form in Atapuerca and will aim to maintain that momentum on Sunday while his closest opponent there, Kibet, will be eager to confirm his runner-up place ahead of Kwizera was no fluke.
Defending champion Kwizera reportedly resumed training for this cross-country season a bit later than usual after spending some weeks in his native Burundi for family matters, but the 22-year-old is rounding into form and he should be in contention for a podium place once again. Meanwhile teenager Mebrahtu, the world U20 5000m silver medallist, will also be a contender after his recent top-four finishes in Soria and Atapuerca.
Spanish hopes rest mainly on the in-form Nassim Hassaous, a top-10 finisher in all his appearances so far this cross country campaign.
Entries for the women’s race, also contested over 10.1km, are headed by Uganda's Olympic steeplechase champion Peruth Chemutai. Illness prevented the 23-year-old from competing in Atapuerca last weekend, but she now seems fully recovered and ready for her first outing since taking bronze at the Commonwealth Games in August.
Despite the longer than usual distance, Kenya's 2021 world U20 1500m champion Purity Chepkirui should play a key role on Sunday following her overwhelming win in San Sebastián two weeks ago and her runner-up finish in Atapuerca last Sunday.
She will be joined by her fellow Kenyan Nancy Jepleting, winner in Zaragoza last month, while Ethiopia will be represented by Meselu Berhe, runner-up in San Sebastián and seventh in Atapuerca.
Turkey's four-time European cross-country champion Yasemin Can is also entered, as is Portugal's 2019 European U20 3000m silver medallist Mariana Machado, and Spain’s Isabel Barreiro, who finished just six seconds behind Can last weekend.
Previous winners in Santiponce include Kenenisa Bekele (2003, 2004 and 2007), Fernando Mamede (1984 and 1985), Paul Kipkoech (1987 and 1988), Paul Tergat (1998 and 1999), Moses Kipsiro (2008 and 2009), Leonard Komon (2010 and 2011), Linet Masai (2010 and 2012) and Paula Radcliffe (2001), among others.
Weather forecasters predict a sunny day and temperatures in the 16-18C range by the time of the event.
Emeterio Valiente for World Athletics