Kenya's Josephat Kiprono, winner of the Berlin Marathon in 2:06:44 on September 26, has accepted an invitation to take part in the IAAF Rome Millennium Marathon on January 1, 2000.
This race, which starts at 12:30 and will be the first major sporting event of the new century, gets underway in St Peter's Square with the blessing of the Pope, John Paul II. This race coincides with the opening of the great celebrations of the Jubilee - a religious festival of tremendous significance to those of the Christian faith.
Kiprono, who is the fourth fastest marathon runner of 1999 and the fifth fastest of all time, will be joined by other great Kenyan athletes. These include Philip Tanui, winner of the last Rome marathon (March 21 1999) in 2:09:56, and Sammy Korir, who won the Turin Marathon (May 2 1999) in 2:08:27.
Host nation Italy (although the race starts in another sovereign territory - the Vatican) also boasts top level representatives. Giacomo Leone - fourth in New York this year but winner of that famous marathon back in 1996 - has confirmed he will start. It is his way of paying tribute to Primo Nebiolo, the late IAAF President, who came up with the idea for this race and had pursued the project with his customary enthusiasm.
The duel between Leone and the Kenyans will be particularly fascinating, and will ensure a superb performance standard at the elite end of the race. This is also guaranteed in the women's event thanks to the confirmed participation of another Kenyan superstar, Tegla Loroupe.