MonteCarloWith US$245,000 in prize money on offer, including US$30,000 for a win in both the men’s and women’s races, the 14th IAAF World Half Marathon Championships, Edmonton, Canada, which will take place on 1 October in William Hawrelak Park, are sure to provide memorable competitions. In the men’s race especially there is even the distinct possibility of a World record intermediate split time or even two, being clocked on route to the gold.
We now examine the merits of some of the leading players in the men’s race…
MEN – Sihine looks to step out from Bekele's shadow
Until only yesterday it had been hoped that the Edmonton race would witness a battle between the world’s absolute fastest ever half marathon runner, Zersenay Tadesse of Eritrea, and two regular World Championship silver medallists, Ethiopian Sileshi Sihine and Fabiano Joseph Naasi of Tanzania. Unfortunately, the effort which took Tadesse to his 59:05 time on 18 September in Newcastle, England, has left him with a back injury, and as such he will not now compete this Saturday.
So the Championship in Canada will very much be left to a duel between two potential alchemists, as Sihine and Joseph, multiple minor medallists at major global championships in the last two years, attempt to finally turn base metal into gold.
Joseph has the half marathon experience
Joseph is the half marathon specialist with runners-up finishes at these championships in 2003 and 2004. It is easy to forget that this prodigiously talented athlete is still only 19-years-old (DOB: 24.12.85), and yet he is already one of the world’s finest distance runners. The World Junior 10,000m silver medallist has a personal best (PB) at the half marathon of 60:52, when finishing as runner-up in his first World Half Marathon in 2003. 15th over 5000m on the track in the World Championships in Helsinki last month, Joseph has a season’s best at the half marathon of 61:00 when coming fourth at the Stramilano race in April.
Sihine possesses the potential
Sihine, at 22 years of age going on 23 in January, is a World Half Marathon rookie, but a comparative veteran in terms of global track championships. The Ethiopian 10,000m specialist who has played second fiddle to Kenenisa Bekele during the last three summers, has World silver (2005) and bronze (2003) and Olympic silver (2004) medals to show at that distance. His feat in Helsinki was quite remarkable as he also took second place in the 5000m final. he has PBs of 12:47.04/26:39.69 for 5000m/10,000m
He has no running CV at all at the half marathon distance but his 41:38 win over 15km in Nijmegen on 21 November 2004, which is not far short off the current World record for that distance (41:29), indicates his amazing potential. If Sihine can handle the novelty of this road race challenge then he has the ability to improve this 15km time and perhaps even the world mark for 20km (56:18) on route to the finish in the World Half Marathon on Saturday.
Sihine’s principal team-mate in Edmonton will be Abebe Dinkessa, 21, who was seventh in the World Championship 10,000m and fourth at this year’s World Cross Country Championships. Dinkessa has 5000m and 10,000m personal bests of 12:55.58 and 26:30.74 respectively, and was 10th at last year’s World Half Marathon in New Delhi in a time of 64:06. This time is a personal best which is surely set for serious revision in Edmonton.
Kenyan charge dented
There was to be an exceptionally strong challenge for the individual and team titles from Kenya but this has been reduced significantly by the withdrawal through injury earlier today of Wilson Kiprotich Kebenei (KEN). This 25-year-old, currently 3rd in the IAAF World Ranking has a personal best of 60:11, and would have been his country’s strongest hope for gold. Leading the Kenyan charge now should be Paul Kimaiyo Kimugul, who has an impressive personal best of 60:15, set just three weeks ago in Rotterdam, where he finished third.
Kenyan Paul Kirui, the reigning World Half Marathon champion will not defend his title, as he hasn’t yet recovered full fitness to be competitive enough over the half marathon, though he is back racing at shorter distances on the road.
Qatar also in the hunt for medals
The Qatari squad which snatched the individual bronze last autumn thanks to Abdullah Ahmad Hassan, is led this year by Mubarak Hassan Shami, who set his PB of 61:57 at altitude this season. Also waiting to spring a surprise could be fellow ex-Kenyan Nicholas Kemboi, 21, who has an absolute quickest to his name of 60:21 (downhill in Lisbon 2003), and ran his legitimate PB this year in Turin (62:10). Kemboi is an outstanding track runner with a 10,000m PB of 26:30.03 (2001) and a 26:51.87 season’s best this year.
Yuda and the rest…
Not to be overlooked is Joseph’s Tanzanian colleague John Yuda Msuri, who took consecutive individual bronze medals at the World Half Marathon in 2001 and 2002, and was fifth in the 2003 Championships too. The 26-year-old has a PB of 60:12 when runner-up in 2001 but has an absolute best on a slightly downhill course at the 2002 Great North Run (60:02).
Other class names to throw into the melting pot in Edmonton are Ethiopia’s Soloman Tsige and Uganda’s Wilson Busienei, who were respectively fifth and seventh in last year’s World Half Marathon. Then there is Japan’s Takayuki Matsumiya, the World record holder at 30Km on the road, who improved his half marathon best by two seconds to 61:32 in Yamaguchi, Japan in March.
In all 45 nations will contest the men’s race.
Chris Turner for the IAAF