Ethiopia’s Selemon Barega and Beyenu Degefa will return to the Cinque Mulini meeting in San Vittore Olona - due to be held for the 86th year tomorrow - to defend their titles at the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) Cross Country Permit event.
The 18-year-old Barega will renew his rivalry with world under-20 cross-country champion Jacob Kiplimo
Barega beat the young Ugandan in the Permit races at Venta de Banos and Elgoibar but suffered his first defeat of the season three weeks ago in Seville, where he had to settle for third place behind Kiplimo, who finished second there.
Barega won gold in the 5,000 metres at the 2016 IAAF World U20 Championships and over 3,000m at the IAAF World U18 Championships Nairobi last
After placing fifth in the under-20 race at last year’s World Cross Country Championships in Kampala, he went on to finish in the same position over 5,000m against senior opposition at the 2017 IAAF World Championships in London.
He also set a personal best of 12min 55.58sec at the IAAF Diamond League meeting in Lausanne last summer.
Before taking cross-country gold on home soil last year, Kiplimo had earned the bronze medal in the 10,000m at the 2016 IAAF World U20 Championships.
Ethiopia’s Telahun Haile Bekele, a recent winner of the Vallagarina cross-country race in Rovereto, and Eritrea’s Filmon Ande, fourth at the Campaccio IAAF Cross Country Permit in San Giorgio su Legnano, will also be among the main contenders tomorrow.
Two-time world under-20 cross-country champion Letesenbet Gidey starts as the favourite in the women’s race.
The Ethiopian, set to turn 20 next month, ran a 5,000m personal best of 14:33.32 in Rome last year to become the second-fastest junior in history behind Tirunesh Dibaba.
Tomorrow she will be up against two fellow Ethiopians who have also won medals at global championships.
Degefa, the defending champion, won 3,000m gold at the 2016 IAAF World U20 Championships, while 19-year-old Hawi Feysa earned the silver medal in the under20 women’s race at last year’s IAAF World Cross Country Championships.
Kenyan steeplechase specialists Norah Tanui and Daisy Jepkemei will ensure the race will not be dominated by the Ethiopian trio.
Britain’s 2014 European cross-country champion Gemma Steel, second at the Cinque Mulini four years ago, is also in the field, along with Italian 5,000m champion Valeria Roffino and Federica Dal Ri, the Italian champion in the marathon and at cross country.