Turkish double at European Cup 10,000m in Istanbul

Turkey's Elvan Abeylegesse, seen here trailing Lornah Kiplagat
won her third successive European Cup 10,000m title in front
of her home fans in Istanbul.

There was a historic Turkish double at the European Cup 10,000m at the Enka Stadium in Istanbul on Saturday when Elvan Abeylegesse and Selim Bayrak took the spoils to send the large host nation crowd home happy. 

In warm conditions of about 21 degrees but cloudy, it was a third successive title for 2007 World Championship silver medallist Abeylegesse, who beat a top class field to win the women's race in a world leading time of 31:36.33.

Behind the former world 5,00m record holder, was last year's World Cross Country Champion Lornah Kiplagat of Netherlands who ended with 31:53.72; a result that meant she was outside the Netherlands Olympic qualifying time 31:22.14 and IAAF A standard 31:45.00.

The leading pair tracked each others moves for over 21 laps of the gruelling 25-lap track event, going through the half way point in 15:50 before the defending champion's superior finishing speed brought her clear of of the Dutch woman. There was somewhat better news for Kiplagat's Dutch team-mate and cousin Hilda Kibet, who won bronze for the Netherlands clocking new personal best of 32:05.49.

Behind the leading trio, Hungarian marathon runner Aniko Kalovics finished fourth in 32:09.02 ahead of Romanian Alina Gherasim who attempted to stay with leaders until the 7th kilometre but then faded to fifth in 32:29.52.

The result ensured Olympic selection for the Turk, but meant a completely different story for the Dutch World half-marathon and Cross Country champion Kiplagat, who will now require another attempt to ensure her Olympic selection.

In the team content, Belarus led the way ahead of the host nation Turkey.

The victory by Selim Bayrak in the men's event was historic in that it was the first time in the history of the event that same country won both individual titles.

Coached by Anatoliy Bychkov, who also coaches Abeylegesse, Bayrak was the revelation of the event, winning the title with world leading time of 27:47.75, which was also a Turkish record and Olympic qualifier in the process.

Of African extraction, he was previously known as Girma Legese of Ethiopia who won bronze at World Youth Championships 2003 in Sherbrooke, Canada at 3000m before declaring for Turkey.

Until the 8th kilometre, the Ethiopian pacemakers led the main pack consisting of 7 runners before they split with only Spain's Carles Castillejo able to mount anything like a challenge eventually finishing in the runner-up spot and marginally missing his best with 28:07.55. His best was set three years ago in 2005 with 28:06.88.

However, there was some relief for Castillejo as he has now achieved the Spanish Olympic B qualifying standard and may yet be selected for Beijing off this performance.

Russia's Oleg Kunkov, who was content to lead the second grouptook the bronze in 28:48.55 ahead of his team mate Sergey Yemelyanov who finished fourth 28:49.55.  There was disappointment for the Spanish pre-race favourite and 2005 Champion Juan Carlos de la Ossa, who was off form by his own standards to finish fifth in 28:55.58.

In the team contest, the Russian men won the team competition for the fi