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Arikan, Moreira take European Cup titles

Polat Kemboi Arikan

Polat Kemboi Arikan

Turkey’s Polat Kemboi Arikan made an impressive debut over 25 laps of the track when he won the European Cup 10,000m crown in 27:56.28, with the Spanish city of Bilbao being the host on Sunday.

The front group in the 29-strong field in the A-race was taken through the halfway point by the Kenyan pacemaker Vincent Rono in 13:52.18, which set up the leaders perfectly for a chance to go under 28 minutes.

Rono stepped off the track just after 6000m and from that point Kemboi Arikan controlled the race from the front, pulling away from his challengers at the bell.

Coming home directly behind Turkey’s 3000m and 5000m record holder were a trio of runners from the host country Spain: the 2010 and 2011 SPAR European Cross Country Championships silver medallist Ayad Lamdassem, Carles Castillejo and Miguel Ángel Penas.

They clocked 28:04.22, 28:07.50 and 28:33.99 respectively but despite helping Spain defend the team title it won 12 months ago in Oslo, with the three scorers getting an aggregate time of 1:24:45.71 , there will probably be some collective disappointment that not one of them was able to record a personal best.

Portugal finished second in the team competition with 1:26:13.34, their leading scorer being Rui Pedro Silva in sixth place with 28:36.32.

The 2011 Cup winner Youssef El Kalai was Portugal’s second scorer in ninth with 28:46.64 while 2011 SPAR European Cross Country Championships bronze medallist Jose Rocha was 10th in 28:50.38.

France finished a close third barely 20 seconds further back with their three scorers clocking 1:26:33.60.

Despite having two men in the top 11, Italy’s chances of getting on the podium and perhaps even winning were devastated by 2010 European Athletics Championships 10,000m bronze medallist Daniele Meucci not being able to travel to Bilbao and former SPAR European Cross Country Championships junior and under 23 winner Andrea Lalli dropping out, and they eventually finished out of the medals fourth.

Portugal’s Sara Moreira defended her women’s Cup title when she won in a personal best of 31:23.51, the fastest time by a European this year.

Moreira, the 2010 European Athletics Championships 5000m bronze medallist, held the lead with one kilometre to go and consolidated it over the final lap.

Great Britain’s Jo Pavey, who just missing out on being selected to run the marathon at the Olympic Games this summer, will have done her chances of being selected for her fourth Olympics no harm after coming home second in 31:32.22, well inside the Olympic A standard.

However, both women may be considering their options carefully now as there will be gold medals and glory also at stake over 10,000m at the European Athletics Championships, which will be held in Helsinki from 27 July to 1 July.

Pavey came home just in front of French marathon record holder Christelle Daunay.

Daunay was second last year but will be unlikely to be too disappointed at slipping back a place as she added the national mark over 25 laps of the track to her list of accolades with a time of 31:35.81.

After at least four serious attempts in recent years, the 37-year-old Daunay finally eclipsed Rosario Murcia’s former record of 31:42.83 which had stood since 1992.

Germany’s Sabrina Mockenhaupt, the only other Cup winner apart from Moreira in the race having won in 2005, was fifth on this occasion in a season’s best of 31:36.76.

There were good results as well for the two leading Italians. Nadia Ejjafini went under 32 minutes for the first time when she clocked 31:45.14 and Valeria Straneo, who improved the Italian national marathon record to a 2012 European-leading time of 2:23:44 at the Rotterdam Marathon in April, finishing seventh in a personal best of 32:15.87.

Overall, 10 of the top 14 runners set personal best times.

Great Britain took the team title for the first time ever, beating defending Cup holders Italy by the slim margin of just over 14 seconds with a collective time for the scoring trio of 1:36:25.47.

Pavey was aided and abetted by the 2010 SPAR European Cross Country Championships junior women’s gold medallist Charlotte Purdue, who ran 32:18.44 for seventh place, and 2011 SPAR European Cross Country Championships senior women’s bronze medallist Gemma Steel, who clocked 32:34.81 for ninth in her debut over the distance.

Following Ejjafini and Straneo home for the Italians was Elena Romagnolo in 10th place with 32:39.12 but, despite personal bests for all three runners in the familiar blue vest of the Azzuri, their tally of 1:36:40.13 was not quite good enough to get them the gold medals for the second year running.

Portugal, who have won the women’s team title nine times in the 16 editions of the Cup, were little more than 11 seconds further back in third place with 1:36:51.26.

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