The traditional IAAF press conference on the eve of the 14th IAAF World Half Marathon Championships was held this afternoon in the Fairmont Macdonald Hotel in Edmonton.
The meeting was chaired by IAAF Vice President Dr Amadeo Francis, President of the NACAC area and included the participation of star athletes Derartu Tulu and Sileshi Sihine from Ethiopia, Lornah Kiplagat from the Netherlands and Tara Quinn-Smith from Canada.
Selected quotes from the athletes:
Sileshi Sihine (ETH)
I am really motivated to be here in Edmonton and I am certainly here to win the gold medal. That would make me really happy, so I will do whatever it takes to win the race.I know that Haile Gebreselassie won this title for Ethiopia back in 2001 and of course, it would be an honour to be able to follow in his footsteps. I know that the other runners are strong, because this is the World Championships, but I am well prepared and confident. If someone beats me they will have to be very strong! I am also glad to be part of a strong Ethiopian team which is very determined to do well.
As for my decision not to run the Chicago Marathon this year, basically it was a question of preparation. Because I am a novice at road running, I thought it was better to prepare well for a shorter distance – and this is why I decided it was better to run in this competition. It is a top race, and it will help me learn about my possibilities in the marathon.
Derartu Tulu (ETH)
It’s true that I have happy memories of running here in Edmonton, as this was the last time I won a World track title at 10,000m. From my point of view, obviously I have done a lot of major competitions, but I’ve never won the World Half Marathon so this is a great motivation. I was very pleased with my performance at the Great North Run recently, where I think I ran in the right way, so I am aiming to do the same thing here.
Because this is a world title race, I don’t think the pace matters that much. What’s important is that you adjust to circumstances during the race itself. When asked by veteran Athletics writer Dave Martin when she planned to retire, Tulu replied: Only when I reach your age!
Lornah Kiplagat (NED)
We are here for the World Championships, so I know the level of my competitors. I know how good they all are but I’m very excited to be here and to race athletes of the calibre of Tulu. I am very ready to go for it!Although I’m very happy to try and win an individual title, it would be great if I could also be in line for a team prize. But unfortunately, Holland doesn’t have a team, and this is something that I hope will change in the coming years. When I changed nationality from Kenya to Holland, I wanted to encourage other girls to take up the sport. Hopefully, next time I come to this event it will be with a Dutch team.
When asked whether she considered Edmonton, or the New York Marathon to be the most important competition she replied: “Honestly spoken, I see them as equally important, and I would just as proud to win either of them. When I plan my season, I only enter races that I feel are important, so I want to do my very best here, and also at the New York Marathon in November.
Tara Quinn-Smith (CAN)
I’m really proud, honoured and excited to be able to run alongside such a world class field and in front of a home crowd as well. That’s just amazing. You could definitely say that athletics is a family affair for me as I have an identical twin sister who is a runner, and my husband is also an athlete and, in fact, is racing here for Canada as well.
Although I will need to focus on my warm up, because he runs before me, it would be nice to see how my husband gets on as his race is before mine.
The introductory remarks of Amadeo Francis
It gives me great pleasure to be with you today on the occasion of the 14th edition of the IAAF World Half Marathon Championships. It is a special pleasure for the IAAF to be in Edmonton, because it is the first time we return to this city since it was the venue for an excellent edition of the IAAF World Championships in Athletics in 2001. I should also mention here that these World Half Marathon Championships are being contested outside Europe for only the THIRD time in its history.
As Vice President of the IAAF, and President of the NACAC region, I cannot emphasise enough the constant support that Canada offers the IAAF as a host of major international athletics competitions. Ever since the 1988 edition of the World Juniors was held in Sudbury, the IAAF has been coming back to this great country with top competitions, most recently in 2002 when the World Youth Champs were staged in Sherbrooke. Canada should be proud of this record, and I am delighted to see that there seems to be no let up in this policy, with Athletics Canada continuing to bid with enthusiasm, but also with the vital support of city and regional authorities.
I am also confident that we will have great spectator support for the competition because this city has a great reputation for organising major road running and triathlon events, and that our athletes will get the most enthusiastic support possible around this picturesque course.
This weekend’s competition is the final IAAF World Athletics Series competition of 2005. It has been a long year – but an exciting one – and I would like to briefly remind you of some of the highlights.
First of all, all those who were at the World Cross Country Championships in St Galmier back in March were thrilled by the tremendous standards, and also by the public’s support for the event. It was wonderful to enjoy some unusual sunny weather in March and to see more than 60,000 spectators cheering on the runners. I was very proud of the standards set by our young athletes at the World Youth Championships in Marrakesh, but I was also delighted with more than 180 Member Federations taking part, and medallists coming from 35 of them, including countries such as Iran, Kazakhstan, Paraguay, Sudan and Venezuela, another sign of the growing fruits of the IAAF’s worldwide development programme.
Then of course, we come to Helsinki, where despite the misfortune of unseasonal rain storms, will nonetheless be recalled with great affection by all of us as one of the best ever IAAF World Championships. Despite the rain, the wind and the cold, the athletes always wanted to carry on. And most significantly, we still had absolutely exceptional results, and tremendous competitions. As well as the three fantastic World Records of Olympiada Ivanova, Yelena Isinbayeva and Osleidys Menendez, 40 countries were medallists, and 61 represented in finals, another clear indicator that our sport is truly worldwide in appeal.
Of course, as well as Helsinki, the IAAF continued to promote its circuit of one-day Athletics Meetings in 2005, headed by the TDK Golden League. I can single out Tatyana Lebedeva winning the 1 Million Jackpot in Berlin and Kenenisa Bekele smashing the World Record in Brussels, but ever since the first meeting at the Stade de France on 1 July, which had a world record of 70,000 spectators present, the Golden League has been a valuable promotion tool.
Then, after all this action we ended the track season in style just three weeks ago, in Monaco, the home of the IAAF, with the third edition of the World Athletics Final, where the world’s top-ranked athletes, brought the track season to a fitting climax with excellent performances.
Bringing us right up to date, the IAAF World Half Marathon Championships not only allow our elite road runners an important competition opportunity, but also give the IAAF a bridge into the world of the recreational runner, a community that has discovered running, and who have helped make the road running scene one of the most vibrant in our sport.
This competition remains popular not only with our Member Federations but also with elite athletes. Two years ago in Portugal, Paula Radcliffe, the reigning world champion and world record holder in the Marathon, was asked what she thought about the World Half Marathon Championships and she replied: “It is a great event because it is the only one that permits road runners to become World Champions. Our sport needs this event!” We can certainly anticipate some exciting battles for honours here in Edmonon, with a total of US$245,000 on offer in prize money from the IAAF, with US$30,000 for a win, and the first six in each race eligible for an award. Team awards are also on offer, starting with US$15,000 for the winner.
Thanks for your attention and I’d like to wish the organisers and athletes the best of luck on race day!