Maria Larsson put the finishing touch to a weekend to remember in Sweden by winning the women’s 30km race at the 52nd TCS Lidingöloppet on Saturday.
A 3000m steeplechaser by trade, Larsson had never competed over more than 10km before.
But in perfect conditions of 15 degrees and no wind, as 44,000 athletes took part in the biggest cross country meeting in the world, Larsson was never flustered as she achieved one of the best results of her career in a famous one-two for the hosts.
Larsson, 22, won in 1:56:54, almost two minutes ahead of teammate Malin Ewerlof, 44, the 1998 European 800m silver medallist indoors and out, who was second in 1:58:51.
It truly was a day to remember at this European Athletics Cross Country Permit Meeting for Larsson, who stayed strong in the tough last 10km to triumph in a year where she ran a steeplechase personal best (9:50.16) at the European Athletics Championships in Amsterdam in July.
Set on the island of Lidingo to the north of Stockholm, the event took place between Friday and Sunday and included 13 different competitions with 57 age classes, from three to 80, with the hilly 30km course as the main distance.
Mustafa Mohamed was Sweden’s big hope in the men’s race as he chased his fourth success since 2008 but victory was achieved by Ethiopian Japhet Kipkorir in one of the most dramatic of finishes the event has known.
By the 15km mark, seven men were challenging but by the time they reached the service station at 20.6km, Desta Kibrom, on his debut, had a 12 second lead from countryman Kipkorir.
But within a kilometre, Kipkorir had closed the gap, yet it was not until the last 100m that he sprinted away to win by one second in 1:37:52 for his third triumph after also winning in 2009 and 2010.
David Nilsson (1:38:45) was third with Mohamed in fourth (1:39:58).
The last race of the three-day event was the women’s main competition, the 10km, which saw Kenyan Sylvia Kiberenge (34:51) beat Ethiopian Gudeta Bekelech (34:59).
And this race was all in a good cause, being renamed to the Rosa Bandet-loppet, with money raised for the fight against women’s breast cancer. Thanks to the sponsor ICA, a large part of the registration fee went to cancer research and the result was no less than 252,400 Swedish crowns (around 26,00 Euros) collected.