Ethiopia’s Imane Merga, the 2011 Cross-Country World champion and Kenya’s Sylvia Kibet celebrated their second victory at the Bozen/Bolzano’s New Year’s Eve run on Monday as the duel between Kenya and Ethiopia ended in a tie.
Merga won the men's race ahead of his compatriot Muktar Edris in a close finish with record-holder Serhiy Lebid from the Ukraine surprisingly third.
An experienced Merga asserted himself against the world junior champion Muktar Edris in the last 300m to cross the finishing line in 29 minutes and 12 seconds.
This was Merga’s second victory after 2010 when he won over Mo Farah in the final yards.
The Olympic bronze medallist Thomas Longosiwa from Kenya was weakened by a flu and had to give up in the second round marking the first time since 2006 that Kenya was not able to win a podium place.
"I am so happy that I was able to win the race after last year's third rank." said Merga. "It is great to give Bozen's audience my New Year's wishes as winner."
There was a strong African presence in the 5km women’s race.
Sylvia Kibet leading two Ethiopian Afera Godfay and Worknesh Degefa broke away from the rest of the field at halfway point and used her experience to edge her rivals in the final spurt.
The 28-year-old world vice champion from Kenya won in 16:21 minutes. This was Kibet’s second victory after 2007. In a repeat of last year's race, Godfay finished second ahead of the little-known Degefa.
Local hero Silvia Weissteiner, who finished third in 2011, had to content herself with the fourth position.
After the race, Kibet said: "I couldn't have closed the old year better and I couldn't begin the new year better. It is always a matter of prestige to win in Bozen/Bolzano.
"Today it was warmer than it was during my victory five years ago. Nevertheless it was not easy at all."
"Both of the Ethiopian were strong, but on the finishing line I could play out my strength and wait for the right moment for the attack," she added.
Men (10 km):
Women (5 km):
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