Israel might not have a particularly rich tradition in long distance running but there could be something to celebrate at the European 10,000m Cup at the Parliament Hill Athletics Track in London on 19 May when Lonah Chemtai takes to the start-line in the women’s race.
Chemtai, 29, represented Israel in the marathon at the 2016 Olympics and 2017 World Championships without much success but it is over the shorter distances where the Kenyan-born runner is starting to make an impact at continental level – and where her aspirations lie ahead of the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo.
Chemtai has already set national records at all distances from 3000m up to the half marathon in 2018. She was the first European finisher at the IAAF World Half Marathon Championships in Valencia when she finished 12th in a European-leading time and national record of 68:58 and she is now transferring this newfound form onto the track.
At last month’s Israeli 10,000m Championships in Tel Aviv, Chemtai produced a gun-to-tape clocking of 31:39.63 to move to second on the 2018 world lists. She started aggressively and was on sub-31 minute pace through the 5000m checkpoint in 15:26.8 – also a national record – and with assistance from the pacemakers, an assault on the sub-31 minute barrier is not out of the question.
The fastest women in the line-up based on lifetime bests is Germany’s Sabrina Mockenhaupt. Now 37, Mockenhaupt might not be in the sort of form which saw her run 31:14.21 at the 2008 Olympics but her motivation will be to run 32:55 or faster. This would put her in contention for a place on her fifth European Championships team in Berlin later this summer.
Mockenhaupt is one of the stalwarts of the European 10,000m Cup, having won the individual title in both 2005 and 2013. She spearheads a strong German team which also includes European U20 5000m champion Miriam Dattke and Natalie Tanner, who has already clocked 32:36.15 for the distance in 2018.
The Spaniards, who have won three team titles since the event was inaugurated in 1997, have named a full-size team of six including Ana Lozano who will make her debut at the distance.
Lozano has competed sparingly this season but she raced very well over the shorter distances last year, finishing sixth over 3000m at the European Indoor Championships in Belgrade before winning the 5000m at the European Team Championships Super League in Lille.
Great Britain have also won the team title three times and they will be looking to perform well as a collective on home soil. The fastest on paper in Charlotte Arter with a 32:37.52 PB although the most credentialed athlete on the team is former European U20 3000m and cross country champion Emelia Gorecka who will make her 10,000m debut.
Other contenders for the individual title include former European U23 champion Jip Vastenburg from the Netherlands (31:35.48 PB), Ancuta Bobocel from Romania (32:18.93 PB) and former European cross country champion Sophie Duarte from France (32:36.32 PB).
Portugal’s Sara Moreira, who won her third individual title in Minsk twelve months ago, will not be defending her title while Belarus, who collected the team prize, are not sending a team to this year’s event.