Belgium, Australian win Hanoi race

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  From left: Fabio Ruga from Italy, Omar Bekkali from Belgium (winner), and Clement Dumont are awarded as coming first in the men's category at the world vertical race at Hanoi's Landmark Tower on September 30. Photo: Sporting Republic

Belgium Omar Bekkali ran to victory in the men's category at the vertical world circuit at Vietnam's tallest building, the Landmark 72 in Hanoi, while Australian Suzy Walsham secured her first world title.

Bekkali, 34, finished the climb of 1,914 steps to the rooftop observation deck of the 350-meter tower in ten minutes six seconds on September 30. He was followed by Fabio Ruga from Italy who came three seconds later, and Clement Dumont from France who completed in ten minutes 52 seconds.

In the women's category, Walsham, who has won three consecutive stair races this year and is a three-time winner of New York City's prestigious Empire State Building Run-Up, came to the top after 11 minutes and 20 seconds, long before Cristina Bonacina from Italy who needed 13 minutes and 25 seconds, and Vietnamese Loan Thi Dung who spent 14 minutes and 19 seconds.

The winners received US$1,500 each.

Ho Thi Hue, a disabled athlete and Paragames silver medal holder, also joined the race as an honored participant.

"I hope my participation will be a boost for other disabled people in Vietnam, to encourage them to come out and join community events."

All the revenues from the race, for which East Meets West, a US-based NGO, has been selected as the official charity partner, will go to sports equipment for the disabled in the north-central province of Quang Tri under the INSPIRE Sports program launched by the foundation.

Landmark 72 on Pham Hung Street, Tu Liem District, organized by the Hong Kong-based Sporting Republic, is part of the 2012 Vertical World Circuit that also comprises other races in New York, London, Milan, Basel, Berlin, Taipei, and Singapore. Sao Paolo, Brazil will host the circuit final in November where two world champions will be crowned and receive a $6,000 prize each.

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