New Year’s Eve Races: Lebed Beats Baldini, Mottram Faster than Tergat

By Jörg Wenig

Traditionally one of the most high-class New Year’s Eve races took place in Bolzano. It was the Olympic marathon champion Stefano Baldini who was defeated in front of his home crowd. The Italian lost the sprint against the Ukrainian Sergej Lebed, who had won the European Cross Country Championships for the fifth time some weeks ago. On the 10-kilometer course through the small south Tyrol city Lebed finished after 28:23 minutes. Baldini was second with the same time in front of the US American Dathan Ritzehein (28:24), who had set the pace for a long time.

Sergej Lebed also beat a second world class marathon runner in Bolzano: Jaouad Gharib (Morocco/28:54), the Marathon World Champion from 2003 in Paris, followed in fourth place. “I have not experienced the fact that three non African runners took the first three places in such a road race for years. That was a real surprise for me,” Sergej Lebed said. He will concentrate on preparing for the World Cross Country Championships in March. For Stefano Baldini the London Marathon in April will be the main focus. Among others he will compete against Evans Rutto. It was the Kenyan and not the Italian Olympic Champion who was recently named as the best marathon runner of 2004 by British athletics magazines ‘Athletics Today’ and ‘Athletics International.’

In the 5K women’s race Berhane Adere showed, that one can count on her for the indoor season. The Ethiopian 10,000-meter World Champion of 2003 won the New Year’s Eve race in 16:14 minutes with a three second winning margin in front of Edith Masai (Kenya). Third was Merima Denboba (Ethiopia) in 16:25.

The New Year’s Eve race in Madrid became an Australian affair. Craig Mottram won the 10K event in 28:18 minutes and defeated the Kenyan Marathon world record holder Paul Tergat. In the women’s race it was the World Cross Country Champion Benita Johnson who came back after a disappointing marathon debut in New York (2:38:03 hours). In a time of 32:35 minutes she defeated the Olympic Marathon silver medalist Catherine Ndereba (Kenya/33:18).

But of course there was some success for the Kenyans as well on New Year’s Eve: The traditional Sao Paulo event saw Robert Cheruiyot winning for the second time after 2002. He ran the 15K race in 44:43 minutes and finished the race with a big margin. Second was the Australian Sisay Bezabeh (45:06), while Stephen Biwott (Kenya) was third in 45:28. The women’s winner was well clear of her rivals as well: Lydia Cheromei (Kenya) ran 53:01 minutes in what was her third Sao Paulo triumph. Lucelia de Oliveira Peres (Brasil/54:18) became second.

In New York’s Central Park there is a race at midnight on New Year’s Eve as well. Christian Hersch (US) repeated his victory from a year ago. He clocked 18:28 minutes on the four mile lap (6.4K). Amy Rudolph (US) was the fastest woman with a course record of 21:17 minutes.