The marathon is more than ever an unpredictable event, and the absence of Moroccan-born American Khalid KHANNOUCHI, who produced last year’s best time of 2:05:38 in London, can only open the race still further.
Winner at the 2000 Olympics in Sydney and World Champion in Edmonton two years ago, the Ethiopian Gezahegne ABERA will thus start favourite. ABERA is an expert in preparing for the big occasions and will unquestionably be the man to beat in Paris, as is witnessed by his time of 2:07:54 in London this year.
Lining up against him will be a quality Kenyan challenge led by Michael ROTICH, winner in April in Paris with the fastest marathon time so far this year (2:06:33). Wilson ONSARE, 3rd in Paris with 2:06:47, and William KIPLAGAT, whose best time of 2:06:50 is now starting to gather dust as it goes back to 1999 in Amsterdam, will add power to the Kenyan challenge.
The Europeans however have a strong hand to play. Though less impressive than on previous occasions, the Spanish will have a strong challenger in Julio REY, third in the 2002 European Championships in Munich, and holder of a personal best of 2:07:27.
Italy will be placing its hopes on the formidable Stefano BALDINI, European champion in Budapest in 1988, and bronze medallist in the World Championships in Edmonton in 2001.
Finally, France may have one of its best-ever challengers in Driss EL HIMER, 4th in Paris in 2:06:48, to spearhead the French challenge.
This, however, is just the pick of the runners capable of challenging ABERA, and in the marathon, a surprise is never far away.