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Defending Champions 
   
Defending champions Mohamed and Hahn back in Diekirch Eurocross - Preview

Friday 9 February 2007

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Both of the defending champions will be running at this Sunday’s Diekirch Eurocross which is an IAAF Cross Country Permit Race. Sweden’s Mustapha Mohamed and Germany’s Susanne Hahn will have to produce a top performance to win again since they face stiff opposition. There are a number of other runners in the field who have won this traditional race in Luxemburg which is organised by the athletics club Celtic.

Mohamed Mustapha is a regular guest at the Diekirch Eurocross and last year he finally managed to win the race for the first time. On the 10.2 km course he had beaten Kaddour Slimani (Italy) by three seconds. This Sunday Slimani will be among the opponents again.

The defending champion Mustapha will meet two runners who have won in Diekirch before: two years ago it was Sultan Zaman Khamis (Qatar) who actually beat Mustapha to take the race in 2005. Additionally the champion from 2002, Hamid El Mouaziz (Morocco), has entered the Diekirch Eurocross again. Another Moroccan to watch could be Mourad Maaroufit who had won the Marrakech half marathon a year ago, improving to 61:43.

Nicholas Kemboi had a quieter year in 2006. But should the former Kenyan, who runs for Qatar since 2005, be anywhere near his best he will be very difficult to beat. He had placed ninth in the 10,000m World Championships final in Helsinki in 2005 and has impressive personal bests of 26:30.3 minutes for 10,000 m and 60:31 for the half marathon.

Günther Weidlinger, Austria’s world-class steeplechaser, is another European besides Mohamed Mustapha who is in with a chance on Sunday.

Women’s race

But a European victory looks more likely in the women’s 5.3km race on Sunday. Susanne Hahn (maiden name: Ritter) has shown a number of convincing cross country performances in recent years. While last year’s triumph in Diekirch probably was the biggest international win of her career so far she had placed 22nd in the World Cross Country Championships in 2005.

On Sunday the defending champion from Germany will meet last year’s runner-up Justina Lesman (Poland) as well as Adrienne Herzog (Netherlands) who finished third a year ago. Simona Staicu (Hungary) had been third in Diekirch in 2001 and will compete here again. She has a 10km best of 31:32 minutes and has run the half marathon in 68:36.

It will also be interesting to see what Anita Weyermann will be capable of. The runner from Switzerland, who had won bronze medals in the 1500m final of the World Championships in 1997 and the European Championships in 1998, is said to be on her way back. After three knee operations the 29-year-old wants to qualify for the World Cross Country Championships. Weyermann had won the Diekirch Eurocross in 1998. Additionally she is the only one who ever won this race as a junior and senior athlete.

The biggest threat for the Europeans could come from a Kenyan athlete on Sunday: Joan Ayaibei has personal bests of 31:59 for 10km and 71:37 for the half marathon, both run in 2006.

Jörg Wenig for the IAAF

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Date Added: 09/02/2007 15:44:18
 
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