Bezabeh runs away to victory as Arikan recovers in style

Bezabeh runs away to victory as Arikan recovers in style
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Spain led by Alemayehu Bezabeh was once again crowned senior men's European team champion at the 2013 SPAR European Athletics Championships in Belgrade.

Spain's Alemayehu Bezabeh won senior men’s gold at the 20th SPAR European Cross Country Championships in a dramatic race in Belgrade on Sunday. 

In the end Bezabeh’s triumph was by 21 seconds in 29:11 - as Spain won team gold too - but the man who finished second, Turkey's Polat Kemboi Arikan, had to pick himself up after only six minutes of action after tripping when he was in front.

It is impossible to know what would have happened had Arikan not suffered his moment of despair on the major - if not small - obstacle on the course. But the logs that the athletes had to leap over proved costly for him. 

By the time he was back on his feet, he found himself in 10th position but quickly regained the ground he had lost.

Yet Bezabeh, who won the title in 2009, seized on the opportunity and just simply burst away. His break even from that early stage over the 10km was so decisive that no-one could make a challenge. 

It was, though, a brilliant comeback by Arikan with Great Britain’s Andy Vernon making a late surge to take third in a photo-finish from Belgium's Jeroen D'hoedt, both men being given the same time of 29:35.

Vernon’s charge meant he ended with two bronze medals as Britain were third in the team event behind Spain and Belgium, led by D’hoedt. 

The Spanish took four of the top 13 places. After Bezabeh’s victory, Mohamed Marhum was sixth in 29:46, Ivan Fernandez was 11th in 29:58 and Antonio David Jimenez was 13th in 30:02.

However hard the chasing pack had worked to try to narrow the big gap that Bezabeh had created, the leader was running at a smooth pace and never needed to increase his momentum. 

The men’s senior race was the final event of an outstanding championship on a track which barely deteriorated throughout the day.

It was a race where Hassan Chahdi, of France, who was second last year, was one of the pre-race favourites and for long periods he looked like making the podium again as he stayed in the pack of three chasing the leader. 

Arikan had led that small group, which included Belgium’s Bashir Adbi, but Chahdi was one of those to lose his place as Vernon came through from sixth with 400m to go.

The Frenchman ended fifth in 29:40 while Italy’s Daniele Meucci, who had been third in Budapest 12 months ago and was in the second pack chasing Bezabeh, did not finish.