He used his track speed to win.
An underdog proved victorious at the IAAF World Cross-Country Championships in Punta Umbria, Spain on Sunday. Imane Merga has only won two of ten races on the track, but that didn’t stop him from defeating a top-class field in the men’s 12K event.
For his victory, Merga received a $30,000 check. His winning time was 33:50.
The race was a competitive one with Merga battling it out with pre-race favorite Geoffrey Mutai and several other Kenyans until the final 200m. With the finish line in sight, Merga, a sub-13:00 5000m runner on the track, injected the final speed boost to give him the win.
Merga became the third Ethiopian in the past four years to win the race.
“Before I used to think of myself as a track runner but this winter I have got to like cross country races more,” said Merga afterwards.
However, despite Ethiopia’s individual success, the team title went to Kenya. Kenya has now won the title for the past 24 out of 26 years at the World Cross-Country Championships. Ethiopia took home the silver medal.
In the women’s race, led by Shalane Flanagan’s third-place overall finish, the United States took bronze in the team standings on Sunday behind Kenya and Ethiopia.
Flanagan crossed the finish line of the 8K race in 25:10, 12 seconds back of the winner, Vivian Jepkemoi Cheruiyot of Kenya, and only three seconds behind the runner-up and Cheruiyot’s compatriot, Linet Chepkwemoi Masai.
Americans Molly Huddle (17th, 26:26), Magdalema Lewy-Boulet (18th, 26:27) and Blake Russell (19th, 26:30) all joined Flanagan in the top-20, as Lisa Koll (39th, 27:15) rounded out the team scoring for the United States.
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