Alex Baldaccini of Italy and Slovenia's Mateja Kosovelj took the respective titles at the World Mountain Running Association (WMRA) Grand Prix final in Ljubljana, Slovenia, on Saturday (6).
Slovenia’s capital Ljubljana hosted the Smarna Gora race for the 33rd time, making it one of mountain running races with the longest tradition. The race was also served as the WMRA Grand Prix Final after cancellation of the race in Bursa, Turkey. Not only were the weather conditions perfect with sun shining and almost ideal temperatures but about 180 competitors from 12 countries created a great atmosphere on the top of the mountain.
Athletes competed on 10 kilometres of a technically demanding course which has been changed two years ago making it a bit longer and less dangerous. In the men's division a group of athletes from Italy, Eritrea, Switzerland and Slovenia dictated the pace of the race but in the crucial fight in the last metres Alex Baldaccini (ITA) showed more strength and finished first just a few tenths of a second ahead of Teklay Azerya (ERI). They both improved the race record by 30 seconds with their 41:32 runs.
In the women's competition Slovene champion Mateja Kosovelj did not allow any surprises and lead from start to finish and improving the course record by two seconds. After failing to qualify in the Olympic Marathon she was highly motivated to improve her position in the WMRA Grand Prix scoreboard and she succeeded with an excellent performance on Smarna gora. Second was Stevie Kramer (USA) with Valentina Manzi Belotti third.
The Smarna gora race was also the finale of the 2012 Grand Prix. Both Teklay and Manzi Belotti had to do their best and finish in top positions if they wanted to keep their winning position in the Grand Prix; they produced great performances and didn’t make any mistakes. But the ranking in other positions is completely mixed after the final race.
In the men’s competition Teklay won with 404 points, followed by Baldacinni and Gabriele Abate. Last year's Smarna gora and Grand Prix winner Ahmet Arslan ended fourth and showed that we can count on him again next year, since he is now recovering after some health problems.
In the women's overall standings, Belotti Manzi won with 357 points. Iva Milesova took second place with 283 points ahead of Kosovelj who collected 267 points.
Pika Sarf for the WMRA
MEN - 1. BALDACCINI Alex ITA 41:32 2. TEKLAY Azerya ERI 41:32 3. SCHNEIDER David SUI 42:19 4. KOSOVELJ Mitja SLO 42:24 5. TEKLE Yossief ERI 42:54
WOMEN - 1. KOSOVELJ Mateja SLO 48:46 2. KREMER Stevie USA 50:44 3. MANZI-BELOTTI Valentina ITA 52:36 4. EINFALT Lea SLO 52:44 5. KRŠINAR Neja SLO 52:55