Italy’s Yassine Rachik and Moldova’s Lilia Fisikovici both secured a hat-trick of victories in the EuroHeroes Challenge with contrasting wins in the Mattoni Olomouc Half Marathon, a five-star certified road race by European Athletics Running for All, on Saturday (15).
Having taken commanding victories in Karlovy Vary on 18 May and then again in Ceske Budejovice on 1 June, Rachik and Fisikovici were the in-form runners on the start-line and they further assured their stranglehold on the inaugural EuroHeroes Challenge in Olomouc.
The EuroHeroes Challenge spans four races on the RunCzech Series this year - the finale takes place in Usti nad Labem on 21 September - and the initiative is designed to put the spotlight on elite Czech and European distance runners. The initiative came into being last year with the backing of European Athletics.
In hot and humid conditions, Rachik was more than two minutes shy of his season’s best of 62:29 but the European marathon bronze medallist took another gun-to-tape win in 64:26, winning his third RunCzech race by more than one minute ahead of Ukraine’s Roman Romanenko (66:01) and Ireland’s Paul Pollock (66:12).
“It was hard to run alone, and it wasn't easy to fight with that heat too,” remarked the winner.
Fisikovici was similarly dominant in both of her previous wins in Karlovy Vary and Ceske Budejovice but the Moldovan record-holder looked poised to concede her unbeaten streak on the cobbles of Olomouc.
But the spectators were treated to a dramatic finale as Great Britain’s Stephanie Twell - who led by twelve seconds at the 15km checkpoint - succumbed to the sweltering conditions and faded to fifth in 75:57.
The experienced Fisikovici, who represented Moldova at the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, gauged her effort excellently, coming through in the latter stages to win in 73:32 ahead of Ukrainians Olha Kotovska (74:35) and Darya Mykhailova (74:57).
"I tried to hold on to Stephanie, but I didn't feel well at the eighth kilometre, so I was lagging behind,” explained the winner. “From the 12th kilometre I began to approach her again and at the end managed to speed up and win. I am so happy about my victory.”
A total of 10,078 runners took part in the Mattoni Olomouc Half Marathon event with 6481 runners in the main race and 3597 participants in non-competitive dm family run.