A new generation of middle-distance runners will be in the spotlight at the 85th edition of the Cinque Mulini in San Vittore Olona on Sunday (22), the penultimate meeting of the 2016/2017 IAAF Cross Country Permit series.
Ethiopia’s world U20 5000m champion Selemon Barega, who has a PB of 13:21.21 in his specialist event, will be looking to continue his country’s proud tradition in this race, following in the footsteps of his illustrious compatriots Fita Bayesa (winner from 1992-1995), Kenenisa Bekele (winner in 2002) and Muktar Edris (winner in 2013 and 2015).
Barega, who turned 17 on 20 January, won the EA Cross de l’Acier in Leffrinckoucke two months ago. This weekend’s event will be his second race on Italian soil; last September he won the 5000m in Rovereto in 13:24.06.
Barega will face Morocco’s 21-year-old Soufiane El Bakkali, who finished fourth in the 3000m steeplechase at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games, where he set a personal best of 8:14.35.
Italian hopes will be carried by rising star Yeman Crippa, who won two European junior cross-country titles in 2014 and 2015 before taking the European under-23 cross-country bronze medal in Chia last month.
Crippa will battle for national supremacy against his friend Yohanes Chiappinelli, another Italian runner of Ethiopian origin, who won the European under-20 cross-country silver medal in Chia. Chiappinelli, who was adopted by a family from Siena, is also the European junior steeplechase champion and last year he broke Francesco Panetta’s long standing national U20 record with 8:32.66.
Other top Italian names in the field are twin brothers Samuele and Lorenzo Dini, who won silver medals in the 5000m and 10,000m respectively at the 2013 European Junior Championships, Eyob Gebrehiwet Faniel, who was the second Italian finisher at the Campaccio Cross Country race behind Crippa, and twin brothers Bernard and Martin Dematteis, who finished first and second at the 2016 European Mountain Running Championships.
Junior champions go head to head
The women’s race will feature a clash between two young Ethiopian runners who struck gold at the IAAF World U20 Championships Bydgoszcz 2016.
Kalkidan Fentie won the 5000m in Bydgoszcz last year while her compatriot Beyenu Degefa triumphed over 3000m. This will be their first race against one another but Degefa starts as the slight favourite after impressing with victories in two high-quality cross-country races in France in November.
Alemitu Hawi will be looking to improve on her runner-up finish from last year’s Cinque Mulini. The 2014 world U20 5000m silver medallist finished third at last weekend’s Vallagarina cross-country race in Rovereto.
Italy’s Elena Romagnolo, the national steeplechase record-holder and an Olympic finalist in 2008, will make her comeback after giving birth to her first daughter Carlotta last year.
This year’s race will be held on 22 January, exactly 84 years to the day of the first staging of the competition in 1933 when Giovanni Malerba convinced his friends to shovel clear the snow-covered paths to enable runners to compete.
Since then, the Cinque Mulini has attracted 34 Olympic gold medallists. The list of legends who ran across the famous mills
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