Wanders excels with eighth-place finish at World Half Marathon Championships

Julien Wanders

Switzerland's Julien Wanders was the top European finisher in the men's race at the IAAF World Half Marathon Championships in Valencia. © Jiro Mochizuki for IAAF

Switzerland’s Julien Wanders took another big step in his brilliant year on Saturday (24) when he finished as the leading European in the men’s race at the IAAF World Half Marathon Championships in Valencia. 

In the week of his 22nd birthday, Wanders was eighth in 61:03, a superb run which he can now carry into the summer where he will contest either the 5000m or 10,000m on the track at the European Championships in Berlin.

"I'm proud of myself, I've proven that I do not have to fear anyone," he told Swiss reporters after the event.

A race won by Kenya’s reigning two-time champion Geoffrey Kamworor in 60:02, Wanders was prominent in the pack early on and fared well in an event where the champion broke away with 6km left to take command, covering the segment between 15-20km in a scintillating 13:01.

But the Swiss star, who originates from a family of musicians, is starting to strike a big note in the athletics world having broken the European U23 record and national senior record for the half marathon, finishing second in Barcelona last month in 60:09. 

Amid windy conditions, he could not quite match that but he will be further encouraged by finishing a place ahead of Turkey’s Kaan Kigen Ozbilen (61:05), the SPAR European cross country champion from Samorin last December. 

His Barcelona time remains the best by a European this year but he will refocus on the track this summer with the European Championships in Berlin one of his goals. He was the Swiss 5000m champion in 2016 and won the 1500m title last summer.

Having started the year with a half marathon personal best of 61:43 from 2017, he has now twice surpassed that time which will only do wonders for the confidence for this emerging talent of European distance running. 

Spain’s Ayad Lamdassem had been among the early leaders before crossing the line in 28th in 62:14 as his country were the top European team in eighth. 

In a women’s race which entered the history books as Ethiopian Netsanet Gudeta broke the women’s-only world record to win in 66:11, Israel’s Lonah Chemtai Salpeter achieved her own landmark. She was the first European home in 12th in a 68:58, a national record.

Belarus had the honour of being the leading European women’s team in sixth on what was a great day for their first runner home, Volha Mazuronak, whose 70:57 for 18th was a national record.

Moldova’s Lilia Fisikovici also notched a national record, 72:11 in 36th. 

Kowal defeats Mekhissi-Benabbad over 10km

By the time of Berlin this summer, Yoann Kowal and Mahiedine Mekhissi-Benabbad will be racing each other over the 3000m steeplechase but on Sunday, Kowal had the better of his French rival, winning the 10km de Moirans in 28:42. 

Kowal will be chasing his third podium finish in the 3000m steeplechase in Berlin while Mekhissi-Benabbad will be after his fifth European gold, having also won European indoor and outdoor titles over 1500m.

After Kowal won gold in 2014, Mekhissi-Benabbad regained his European 3000m steeplechase title in Amsterdam with his fellow Frenchman taking bronze. 

On Sunday, Mekhissi-Benabbad (28:59) finished third, six seconds behind teammate Hassan Chahdi (28:53) who will be contesting the marathon at the European Championships.

At the famous Carlsbad 5000 in California, former European U20 3000m champion Emelia Gorecka won the women’s race in 16:04 while Sweden’s 1500m specialist Kalle Berglund stepped up in distance to win the men’s race in 14:15.

Duplantis clocks 10.69 over 100m

It has been a winter to remember for Sweden’s pole vault star Armand Duplantis but this weekend it was nothing to do with the heights he could achieve. 

The American-based athlete was appearing in probably his last high school meeting at Lafayette, where he is a pupil, he chose to run the 100m, where he produced a time of 10.69. He also won the long jump with 6.85m. 

In February, Duplantis, 18, put his stamp on the indoor season when he soared to 5.88m in Clermont-Ferrand to break the world U20 indoor record.