ST.GALLEN, SWITZERLAND — The FISU 2018 World University Cross-Country Championship kicked off with a gutsy performance from German student-athlete Caterina Granz as the middle-distance running standout showed her ability to win a major long distance event for the first time the hard way— by heading to the front of the pack, pushing the pace, and dropping all her pursuers to win the women’s 10 kilometre competition.
Behind the German psychology student, though, a quartet of Japanese runners put on a transcendent performance to take the women’s team title crown by finishing 2-4-5-6. Granz and her German teammates team took the team silver with Italy winning the bronze on the demanding track that circled around Gründenmoos and Breitfeld areas of St. Gallen.
Germany psychology student the class of the women’s field
A tightly contested women’s race began the day in St.Gallen for the FISU World University Cross-Country Championship
Ms. Granz, who works also as a student assistant in sports psychology, saw her golden day as a breakthrough performance.
“My specialty so far was rather short distances, but today in St. Gallen it went very well on the long distance,” Ms. Granz said. “Now my next goal is the athletics World Cup 2018 in Berlin for 5000 M.”
The 24 year old said that the comradery of university sport was why she came to compete in St. Gallen — and contributed to her transcendent performance. “Although the competition is very important, the get-together with many student-athletes from all over the world was also very important to me,” Ms. Granz said.
The women’s podium from the 21st edition of the World University Cross-Country Championship saw Japan (centre) take home the gold, with Germany (left) winning sliver and Italy (right) the bronze in the team competition
Surprise winner rackets up the pace to steal the race in the second half
During the early going of the men’s six-lap, 10 kilometre competition, it looked like a reprise from the 2016 WUC Cross-Country competition was shaping up—an event where Morocco swept the men’s podium en route to taking the team title as well for good measure. However the front-running from two years prior in Cassino, Italy did not prove to be a winning tactic as the South African and Japanese runners steadily moved up through the latter laps of the race as they finished one-two in the team competition, with Morocco third.
Japan and South Africa came on in the latter parts of the 10 kilometre race to go one-two in the Men’s Team competition, with South Africa taking the gold. In the Overall Team event, Japan won.
At the head of the course, though, it was the Algerian El Hocine Zourkane who pressed the pace the most late, coming out as a surprise winner by finishing nine seconds before his closest pursuer.
“This is my first World University Championship, and I am so happy to win this demanding competition,” the new Algerian student champion said, who is in his second year of fire brigade school.
The Algerian fire brigade student overcomes personal adversity in his victory
The Algerian forced the initiative, and the pace, from the front en route to win going away
Mr. Zourkane’s coach described the victorious runner as an incredibly purposeful individual, an attribute that showed in his demeanour of running. Zourkane’s success carried special meaning as his sister died only about a week ago, which led to a lot of emotions coming out of the young Algerian.
Podium in the Men’s Team competition at the 2018 World University Cross-Country Championship
It was also a stellar day from event management perspective, a status that is standard for Swiss University Sport events, but one that is nonetheless difficult to achieve. FISU Cross-Country Technical Delegate Carlos Cardoso of Portugal stated his satisfaction with both the quality of the competition that was led by Daniel Studer and the St.Gallen University organising committee, and by the elite level of student-athletes that competed Saturday.
The undulating hills and heavy footing made for a classic cross-country running course in St.Gallen
“The facilities, including the accommodation and the medical services, for the athletes were fantastic, and everything went very smoothly. I got so many positive feedbacks from the athletes which were very happy with this event,” Mr. Cardoso said. “It was a very good course which was prepared by the organising committee in St. Gallen.”
Added Mr. Cardoso: “Of course the great weather conditions also contributed to the success of this championship, and the level of the athletes was quite satisfying. This event was a very good occasion to promote FISU and University Sports.”
The top cross-country runners from 20 countries competed at the 21st WUC Cross-Country. There’s a certain something special that is unique to international university sports events. The 22nd event edition heads to Marrakech, Morocco as well!