Nibret Melak claims a second consecutive win at the 90th Cinque Mulini (© Giancarlo Colombo)
Nibret Melak from Ethiopia and Teresiah Muthoni Gateri from Kenya claimed wins at the 90th edition of the Cinque Mulini in San Vittore Olona – the 11th Gold level meeting of this season’s World Athletics Cross Country Tour – on Sunday (30).
The Italian race was held on a sunny and warm day, with a temperature of 15°C.
Melak won for the second consecutive year, becoming the second Ethiopian athlete in the history of the men's race to win at least two consecutive editions after Fita Bayisa, who triumphed four times in a row from 1992 to 1995. Muktar Edris is the only other Ethiopian athlete to have won twice, but not in consecutive years.
Samuel Kibet from Uganda took the early pace at the front of a 10-man group, which featured last year’s world U20 3000m champion Tadese Worku, Tadese Takele and Melak from Ethiopia; Daniel Kinyanjui, Emmanuel Kiplagat and Levy Kibet from Kenya; Oscar Chelimo from Uganda; Habtom Samuel from Eritrea; and Jean Marie Bukuru from Burundi.
The lead pack was whittled down to six athletes during the second lap. Kinyanjui took the initiative, going through the second lap mark in 11:49, closely followed by Worku, Melak, Levy, Takele and Chelimo.
Worku stepped up the pace during the fourth lap and only Melak, Kibet and Takele were able to keep up with the 20-year-old. The leading quartet went through the bell in 23:06 and battled it out over the final lap.
Melak unleashed his kick in the final 150m to cross the finish line in 28:33, holding off Kibet by two seconds. Worku completed the podium, finishing third in 28:36 - the same time as fourth-place finisher Takele. Habtom rounded out the top five in 28:43.
Melak made his breakthrough last March when he finished second at the Campaccio race in San Giorgio su Legnano one week before claiming the win at the Cinque Mulini. During the summer season the 22-year-old Ethiopian runner improved his PB to 12:54.22 in the 5000m at the Ethiopian Olympic Trials in Hengelo, qualifying for the Olympic Games. In the current World Cross Country Tour Gold series, Melak finished third in Seville and second in Venta de Banos.
“It was a good competition," he said. "I expected a close race.
"I want to return next year to win the Cinque Mulini for the third consecutive year. It was perfect preparation for the track season. I am aiming to qualify for the World Championships in Eugene."
Gateri wins women's race
Kenyan runners Zenah Jemutai Yego, Gateri and Lucy Mawia Muli; European U23 cross country champion Nadia Battocletti, Anna Arnaudo and Rebecca Lonedo from Italy; and Klara Lukan from Slovenia took the lead in the early stages of the women's race and covered the first lap in 7:13.
Battocletti dropped out of the race during the second lap, after the halfway mark, when she was running in the leading pack. The Kenyan trio of Gateri, Yego and Muli increased the pace, taking a two-second lead over Lukan, and went through the 4km mark in 13:35.
Gateri broke away from Yego during the final lap and held on to take a five-second win in 19:40. The Cinque Mulini women’s race was a repeat of the 3000m final at the World U20 Championships in Nairobi, where the now 20-year-old Gateri won the gold medal, beating 19-year-old Yego.
Lukan, who won European U23 silver medals in the 5000m and at cross country last year, finished third in 19:53 ahead of Muli (20:15), becoming the first European runner to reach the top three in the women’s race since 2015.
Last year’s European U23 10,000m silver medallist Arnaudo was the first Italian athlete in fifth place in 20:20.
“I am very happy," said Gateri. "I realised that I could win the race during the last lap, when I launched my kick.
"I was happy with my world U20 title last year in Nairobi, because it has motivated me to work harder in training."
Diego Sampaolo for World Athletics
1 Teresiah Muthoni Gateri (KEN) 19:40
2 Zenah Jemutai Yego (KEN) 19:45
3 Klara Lukan (SLO) 19:53
4 Lucy Mawia Muli (KEN) 20:15
5 Anna Arnaudo (ITA) 20:20
6 Martina Merlo (ITA) 20:31
7 Giovanna Selva (ITA) 20:39
8 Rebecca Lonedo (ITA) 20:39
9 Federica Zanne (ITA) 21:06
10 Michela Moretton (ITA) 21:07
1 Nibret Melak (ETH) 28:33
2 Levy Kibet (KEN) 28:35
3 Tadese Worku (ETH) 28:36
4 Tadese Takele (ETH) 28:36
5 Habtom Samuel (ERI) 28:43
6 Daniel Kinyanjui (KEN) 28:56
7 Oscar Chelimo (UGA) 29:05
8 Samuel Kibet (UGA) 29:05
9 Jean Marie Bukuru (BDI) 29:11
10 Emmanuel Kiplagat (KEN) 29:22