Kenya's Japhet Korir leads Eritrea's Teklemariam Medhin, Ethiopia's Imane Merga and Uganda's Moses Kipsiro at the 2013 IAAF World Cross Country Championships (Getty Images) © Copyright
Preview San Giorgio su Legnano, Italy

Korir and Merga to duel again at Campaccio

The 57th edition of the Campaccio cross-country race, an IAAF Cross Country Permit, will see Kenya’s Japhet Korir and Ethiopia’s Imane Merga battle for supremacy again on Monday (6).

The pair were the gold and silver medallists respectively at the 2013 IAAF Cross Country Championships in Bydgoszcz last March and met again at the Atapuerca IAAF Cross Country Permit meeting in Spain on 17 November, when Merga won and Korir finished sixth.

Merga, the 2011 world cross-country champion, is in superb form this winter and will be looking to win his second Italian race in one week after clinching his third Boclassic victory in a dramatic race against the talented Kenyan runner Wilson Kiprop on New Year’s Eve.

By contrast, Korir is on something of a comeback trail after having his summer ruined by a lung infection sustained shortly after he became the youngest ever senior men’s world cross-country champion at the age of 19.

He will compete in San Giorgio su Legnano, the venue for the fifth of this winter’s 12 IAAF Cross Country Permit meetings, just two days after winning in Antrim, Great Britain, which is another of this winter’s Permit events.

The impressive men’s field in Campaccio has additional lustre thanks to the presence of Uganda’s Moses Kipsiro, the 2009 World Cross Country Championships silver medallist who was also fourth at World Cross Country Championships in Bydgoszcz in 2013.

Another star on the starting line will be Kenya’s prodigious Conseslus Kipruto, the world junior champion and world silver medallist in the 3000m steeplechase.

The line-up is completed by Bahrain’s Albert Rop, who clocked the second fastest 5000m time in the world in 2013 and finished second at the Brussels cross country meeting on 22 December.

After the late withdrawal of Andrea Lalli and Daniele Meucci, local fans will be closely watching Italy’s in-form Michele Fontana, who finished a good eighth in the under-23 race at the European Cross Country Championships in Belgrade last month.

Can Ayalew conquer the Kenyans again?

The women’s race will be highlighted by a trio of African superstars: Kenya’s world steeplechase champion Milcah Chemos, her compatriot Linet Masai, who won the 2009 world title over 10,000m and who is a three-time World Cross Country Championships silver medallist, and the top Ethiopian steeplechaser Hiwot Ayalew.

Like Merga, Masai showed her recent good form on the roads on New Year’s Eve, winning the San Silvestro Vallecana in Madrid on Tuesday.

The Campaccio women’s race will be a re-match of the Atapuerca meeting seven weeks ago, when Ayalew beat Masai by nine seconds.

The Ethiopian runner won the world cross-country silver medal in Bydgoszcz and is also a fine runner on the track having finished fifth at the London 2012 Olympic Games and fourth at the 2013 World Championships in Moscow in the 3000m steeplechase.

Another runner who can challenge for a place on the women’s podium is Bahrain’s Mimi Belete, the 2010 Asian 5000m champion who won in Antrim on Saturday.

Like with Korir, the big question is: how much did running hard on the heavy course in Northern Ireland take out of her? The Italian hopes are carried mainly by Veronica Inglese, who finished eighth at the 2013 European Cross Country Championships and is returning to form after a long series of injuries.

Also on the starting line will be Elena Romagnolo. Italy’s 2012 Olympic Games 5000m finalist is a familiar face at the Camppaccio race and has been the runner up twice in San Giorgio su Legnano, in 2009 and 2010.  

Diego Sampaolo for the IAAF