Paul Tanui, winner of the men's race at the Cross Internacional de Italica (Alfambra Fundación ANOC) © Copyright
Preview Antrim, UK

Balew and Tanui ready to battle at Antrim cross country

Olympic 10,000m silver medallist Paul Tanui of Kenya and double European cross country gold medallist Fionnuala McCormack of Ireland are among the world class field set to take part in the 42nd IAAF Antrim International Cross Country at Dundonald, Antrim, on Saturday (19).

The Billy Neill Centre of Excellence will stage the event for the first time, after a move from the CAFRE College campus in Greenmount, which hosted the races for the past eight years.

The event is the sixth of the 2018/19 IAAF Cross Country permit series, while the following day Seville plays host to the Cross Internacional Juan Muguerza.

Dundonald will host a busy programme of races on the new course, culminating with the 10km mens event at 14:20 GMT.

Tanui, a silver medallist at the 2011 World Cross Country Championships, will face stiff opposition, with Asian Games 5000m champion Birhanu Balew also set to be involved.

The Bahraini athlete had a brilliant 2018, wit victories in IAAF Diamond League races in Shanghai and Lausanne last year.

The field also includes Kenyan Richard Yator, the 2017 world U20 cross country bronze medallist and 2015 world U18 champion at 3000m.

Yator had a strong 2018 with a 10,000m PB of 27:14.70, the second fastest performance in the world last year.

Chala Beyo will be hoping to keep a good run for Ethiopian runners in Antrim. The 22-year-old took gold in the 3000m steeplechase at the 2016 African Championships.

Morocco's Ibrahim Ezzaydouny had a busy 2018, culminating in a third place finish on New Year's Eve in the 10K at the Cursa dels Nassos in Barcelona.

McCormack returns to action

Former winner McCormack, 34, will be racing for the first time since here appearance here last year, returning to action from maternity leave.

The Kilcoole, Wicklow, Ireland, native has won this event on two occasions, taking successive titles in 2012 and 2013 in Greenmount.

It won't be easy for the double Olympian who will come up against a world class field over the 8k course.

This includes Kenya's Pauline Kamulu who was the fastest 10,000m runner in the world last season.

Ethiopian Meskerem Mamo, who claimed the African U20 5000m title in 2017 is also in the field, as are a host of Great Britain internationals including former European champion Gemma Steel and twice silver medallist Kate Avery.

Steel withdrew from last year's event, but is a regular at the Antrim Cross Country International.

The 2014 European Champion finished second to McCormack in 2012.

As well as being part of the World Cross Country circuit, the Antrim International XC is part of the UK Athletics Cross Challenge Series and this year will also incorporate the Celtic Cross Country International with teams from Scotland, Wales, Ireland and Northern Ireland & Ulster all competing.

There will also be a full programme of supporting races from primary schools age upwards for both boys and girls.

Cóilín Duffy for the IAAF