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Elite squad Kenyan runners plot New York marathon conquest

NAIROBI (Xinhua) -- Defending champion Geoffrey Kamworor, last year’s runner-up Mary Keitany and Olympic champion Vivian Cheruiyot will be the athletes to beat in Sunday’s New York Marathon.

Kamworor, 26, has his eyes cast on making the Kenya team to the World Championships in Doha, Qatar while Cheruiyot has said her target is to make the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. Both their dreams will be pegged on the performance in New York.

As a training partner of Eliud Kipchoge, who set the marathon world record of 2:01:39 in Berlin in September, Kamworor is confident of his form ahead of Sunday’s race.

"My preparation has gone on well as last year.

"It’s almost the same and so far, so good," Kamworor said on Saturday.

"I believe in what I have done and I am ready to race.

"If I win, I will be the happiest man in the world because I will have won everything this year," he added.

He has raced in Bangalore, India and United Arab Emirates winning in both races.

But he faces new challenge from Shura Kitata, who was second in London marathon in April clocking 2:04:49. Kenya’s Daniel Wanjiru should also make his presence felt.

The 2017 London Marathon champion will be making his debut in New York. But so far this year the 26-year-old has been out of sorts, finishing eighth at the London Marathon in April and seventh at the Great North Run in September in 1:03:40.

Ethiopia’s Lelisa Desisa was runner-up in New York in 2016 and the two-time Boston Marathon champion will be hoping to go one better this time.

There is also Ethiopia’s Tamirat Tola, the world marathon silver medalist, who ran 2:04:06 to finish third at the Dubai Marathon in January and Bernard Lagat, who will make his marathon debut and is targeting Meb Keflezighi’s US masters’ record of 2:12:20.

"Training is going wonderfully," said the 43-year-old Kamworor.

"I know the course is hard but it’s not all about place - for me it is about time."

In women race, Keitany of Kenya believes her loss to Shalane Flanagan last year to deny her fourth title in New York has helped bring competition to the race and will be sweet revenge is she reclaims her title back.

"It opened up the race and other athletes believed they too can win," said Keitany.

"I always enter race with aim of winning and after my poor strategy in London, winning in New York will be better for me."

Flanagan sealed a memorable win in last year’s race in 2:26:53 and to retain her title she will have to overcome Vivian Cheruiyot, an athlete she has faced on 11 occasions in the past and never beaten.

Cheruiyot won the London Marathon timed at 2:18:31.

Now she warmed up to New York with win at the Great North Run in Newcastle.

However, this will be Cheruiyot’s first time tackling the New York Marathon.


Kamworor puts title on line in New York marathon, eyes to make history

NAIROBI (Xinhua) -- Reigning New York Marathon champion Geoffrey Kamworor says his opponents will need to have better strategy and greater strength to deny him a second title on Sunday.

The 26-year-old says he has enjoyed an injury-free build-up to this year’s New York Marathon and is in his best form ever, as he looks to improve on his personal best time of 2:06:12, set in Berlin two years ago.

"My preparations have been good since I have not had any challenges.

"My main aim is to go to New York and do what I did last year which is to win, but I am aware that it all depends on hard work and focus in the race," said Kamworor on Thursday in Nairobi.

Kamworor faces strong opposition from teammate and former London Marathon winner Daniel Wanjiru (2:05:21), Festus Talam (2:06:13), and the Ethiopian trio of Tamirat Tola (2:04:06), Lelisa Desisa (2:04:45) and Tola Shura (2:04:49).

Kamworor returns to the United States hopeful of becoming the first man to win the New York Marathon in successive years since John Kagwe in 1998.

His focus will be on his strength, speed and mental aptitude, which marks him out as the man to beat in New York.

"I would like to win as many world and Olympic titles as possible and also to win as many marathons," he added.

"Running is my passion, my office. It is my daily activity that I cannot live without."

Kamworor attributes his strong power and good training to discipline and running sparingly.

This year, he has immersed himself in training and has only had two competitions: in Valencia in March where he won his third World Half Marathon, and in Bangalore, India for the World 10km race, in which he was crowned champion with a time of 28:18.

Now he is focused on adding a second New York Marathon title, especially after seeing his mentor and training mate Olympic champion Eliud Kipchoge obliterate the world marathon record in Berlin in September, when he won in 2:01:39.

"It was a nice race and although he is my training mate, it only inspires me to do even better.

"It has not put me under siege or pressure to equal the mark, but slowly I want to get up there," he added.

Kamworor, who does not turn 26 until November 28, has already notched a hat-trick of World Half Marathon crowns, three World Cross Country titles, and is also the reigning New York Marathon champion.

The Kenyan road racing icon has total faith in his gifts, yet Kamworor did not always possess the swaggering belief he does today and had to be coaxed into the sport by a schoolteacher.

"At high school I won every distance from 800m to 10,000m, but I was scared to proceed to the next level.

"I did not believe in myself.

"It was only after a teacher encouraged me that I could become a professional runner and I saw Kenyans competing at a world-class level, did I have that desire to one day compete against them?" he said.

His first tour outside Kenya was in 2011 in Punta Umbria, Spain, and got off to an inauspicious start after he arrived at the airport without a valid visa stamp in his passport.

Though he endured a frustrating three-day wait as officials made efforts to get him cleared, he still went on to win the Under-20 men’s competition.

Reigning champion Limo targets course record in Porto marathon

NAIROBI (Xinhua) -- Defending champion Jackson Kibet Limo of Kenya has warned he is in top form and ready to challenge the course record of 2:09:51 set by Philemon Baaru at Sunday’s Porto marathon in Portugal.

Limo, who holds a best time of 2:09.06, wants to improve his mark and boost his chances of making the Kenya team to the World Championships in Qatar in 2019.

However, it will not be a walk in the pack for the Kenyan as there are other strong contenders such as Ethiopians Abraham Girma (2:06:48), second at the Copenhagen Marathon, Fikadu Bekede (2:09:37), winner in Rabat 2017, Daniel Deresxe (2:10:09), second at the Leiden marathon and Belete Mekonen (2:10:34), second in Madrid last year.

"These strong challengers will only help push the pace faster.

"That is why I feel am capable of breaking the course record and defend my title," said Limo on Saturday.

The Kenyan contingent, alongside Limo, includes Richard Limo (2:06:45), Kenneth Mburu Mungara (2:07:36), the 2018 Gold Coast winner and Mathhew Bowen (2:10.57). Ugandan Robert Chemonges (2:10:32), the winner in Dusseldorf this year and Eritrean Kibrom Weldemicael (2:09:36) could also be factors.

Kenya’s Ezrah Sang, the winner of this year’s Madrid Half Marathon (60:36) will be making his full marathon debut.

In the women’s race the target is the 2:26:58 course record set by Kenyan Monica Jepkoech last year.

Leading the chase will be Ethiopians Mesekerem Abera Hunde (2:28:25), winner of the 2018 Wuham Marathon, Alemu Megertu (2:29:10), second at this year’s Rabat Marathon, and Abeba-Tekulu Gebremeskel (2:30:18).

Rionotukei, Koech lead Kenya charge at China’s Hangzhou Marathon

NAIROBI (Xinhua) -- Kenya’s Chemtai Rionotukei will be eyeing her fifth win in China on Sunday when she races at the Hangzhou Marathon.

Rionotukei is among the seven Kenyans who will be targeting to conquer the Hangzhou course.

The 32-year-old Kenyan won the Dongguan Marathon in 2016 and set her best time of 2:26:30 in May when she finished second at the Yellow River Estuary International Marathon in Dongying, China’s Shandong province.

The Kenyan also set the Taiyuan Marathon course record of 2:29:36 last year and went on to finish as the runner-up in the same race in September. Now she is determined to improve her time and win the Hangzhou Marathon on Sunday.

"I love running in China. It has very good course and it inspires me to bring out my best.

"In Hangzhou, a lot of focus will be on me, but I have come to get used to that.

"I hope we will have fast pace setters and see who will follow me through the course to 30km," said Rionotukei on Saturday.

The Kenyan will be up against Ethiopia’s Hirut Tibedu, the Shanghai Marathon bronze medalist and Nastassia Ivanova of Belarus.

The field also includes Ethiopia’s Tsehay Desalegn, who finished third in Hangzhou last year in 2:28:35, as well as Nancy Koech of Kenya, former winner of the Munster, Copenhagen, Mombasa, and Malaga marathons.

"I believe the chance to win in Hangzhou is real and I will want to grab it.

"I have enough experience and though we have some fast runners, I believe in my own training and strength. I always plan and run my own race using my own strategy and in Hangzhou it will be the same," said Koech.

In the men’s race, defending champion Ethiopia’s Azmeraw Bekele will put up his title on the line and several Kenyans will be keen to dethrone him led by 31-year-old Edwin Kibet Koech.

Bekele holds the course record at 2:10:33 from last year’s win.

Since his marathon debut in 2014, Koech has remained consistent.

He registered his career best time of 2:08:17 three years ago from his fifth place finish in Eindhoven and went on to win at the 2016 Linz Marathon in 2:09:06.

His most recent performance at the Dalian International Marathon six month ago saw him break the course record by winning in 2:09:44.

Kenya’s Geoffrey Ronoh, who will turn 36, will also toe the line.

The 2:09:29 performer has yet to run in any marathon in the current season but collected two half marathon titles in August and September respectively.

There is also Evans Sambu who has two wins in China at the Taiyuan and Shenzhen in 2016, Mike Kiprotich Mutai, former Hong Kong and Danzhou Marathon winner, and Edwin Kimaiyo.


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