Preview: Kirui, Ayana Among Top Favourites At ADHM 2017
New Delhi, Nov 18 (IANS) Reigning marathon world champion Geoffrey Kirui and London Worlds and Olympic 10,000 metre champion Almaz Ayana will be the cynosure of all eyes on Sunday’s Airtel Delhi Half Marathon (ADHM), the build up of which was marred by health concerns due to smog and rising pollution in the national capital.
Some of the world’s best and India’s elite will vie for glory in the $284,000 event. On the eve of the Race Day, the Indian elite contingent looked confident to better their best till date.
“It’s one of those events I enjoy coming back to. This is my third appearance here I will look to better my timings,” said Indian elite men’s defending champion G. Lakshmanan, who took the top spot in the 2016 edition with a timing of 1:04:37.
Challenging Lakshmanan to his throne would be Nitender Singh Rawat and Kalidas Hirave.
Rawat, who won the 2016 Mumbai Marathon with a timing of 2:15:48, said he wants to better his half marathon time of 1:04:07 on Sunday.
“The event has got bigger and better every passing year, there is more awareness among general public which is very good,” said the 30-year old, who won the title here in 2015.
The Indian women’s elite field will include 2016 edition’s third-placed runner Swati Gadhave along with Sudha Singh, Parul Chaughary and L.Suriya.
Sudha, who is the most experienced of the lot, won the Tata Steel Kolkata 25k in December last year while finishing seventh in the 2016 Mumbai Marathon.
“I have been training hard for this event running 280 kms a week as a part of my training,” said Singh who came third here in 2015.
The Indian women elite athletes will run alongside the likes of defending champion Worknesh Degefa and fellow Ethiopian Almaz Ayana and Kenya’s Helah Kiprop among others.
Almaz, who broke the 10,000m world record — set in 1993 — by clocking 29 minutes 17.45 seconds at the Rio Games last year, is hopeful of a successful debut when she takes her mark on Sunday.
The men’s elite field will be spearheaded by Kenya’s Kirui, who is familiar with the circuit here as he was sixth in a high-quality field two years ago when he clocked his current personal best of 59:38.
Despite his fine credentials which also include a win in the Boston Marathon back in April, Kirui will not start as an out-and-out favourite.
Three of his compatriots have run under 59 minutes, with the in-form Jorum Okumbo the fastest man in the field having run 58:48 earlier this year, while Ethiopia’s Yigrem Demelash was second in 2016 and determined to climb one step higher on the podium this time around.
Speaking on the 10th edition of the ADHM, which has this year received the merit of a Gold Label Race, Vivek Singh, joint managing director of race promoters Procam International said: “Bringing two global champions from London to this race shows our commitment to having the very best runners in the world compete at the Airtel Delhi Half Marathon.
“This IAAF Gold Label event is deservedly one of the world’s most prestigious half marathon and with the appearance of Geoffrey and Almaz this year, it adds further lustre to its reputation,” he added.
2016 Rio Paralympics men’s High Jump gold medallist Mariyappan Thangavelu and bronze medallist Varun Bhati will run in Champions With Disability category.
Sports Minister Col. (Retd.) Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore will flag off the race at 6:40 am on Sunday in presence of Bollywood actor Gulshan Grover and former Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) Vinod Rai.
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