03 OCT 2003 General News Vilamoura

The Ones to Watch in Vilamoura

John Cheruiyot Korir (IAAF)John Cheruiyot Korir (IAAF) © Copyright

Mark Butler takes a look at the leading contenders in Saturday's IAAF World Half Marathon Championships.

Men
It has already been a memorable week for Kenyan runners, starting with Paul Tergat's world marathon record and, tragically, the sad news of the death of Benson Masya, winner of the very first World Half Marathon Championships in 1992.

The week could well end on a high note if Kenya can retain their team title and make amends for a miserable showing in the World Championship marathon.

The 2002 Champion Paul Kosgei was a late withdrawal, but he may not be missed by a squad which includes the current world number 2 and 3, Jackson Koech and Martin Lel. Koech came so near to winning the Great North Run, while Lel has won two other big half marathons in 2003: Lisbon and Virginia Beach. He has the same coach (Gabriele Rosa) as Tergat.

Yusuf Songoka and Paul Kirui (10th last year) will provide good back-up, but they all might be upstaged by Kenyan 10,000m Champion John Cheruiyot Korir, who has the right pedigree to make a big impact in his first championship half marathon.

Ethiopia's and Morocco's biggest guns have stayed at home, so Tanzania's John Yuda may be the only one who can crack the Kenyans. Yuda was third in 2001 and 2002 and will want to do better in what is proving to be his best event. If his compatriots run to form, then Tanzania should be strong contenders for a team medal. Italy and Japan also have good squads.

Leading Contenders (subject to final declarations):

ADERE Dereje    ETH     18y     pb: 61:59 -03
2003 Ethiopian Half marathon Champion

LAHLALI Abdelghani      FRA     26y     pb: 62:11 -03
Ex-Morocco ... twice French half Marathon Champion

ANDRIANI Ottaviano      ITA     29y     pb: 61:40 -03
1997 Florence Marathon winner

OSHIMA Kenta    JPN     24y     pb: 61:48 -03
2002 Japanese Corporate 10,000m Champion

KIRUI Paul      KEN     23y     pb: 60:52 -03
10th in 2002 World Half Marathon

KOECH Jackson   KEN     24y     pb: 60:05 -03
Older brother is Benson Koech, former World Junior Champion at 800m

KORIR John Cheruiyot    KEN     21y     pb: 62:36 -02
Fifth at 10,000m in 2000 Olympics & 2003 Worlds

LEL Martin      KEN     24y     pb: 60:10 -03
Third in 2003 Boston Marathon

SONGOKA Yusuf   KEN     24y     pb: 60:53 -02
Second in 2003 Johannesburg Half marathon

YUDA John       TAN     24y     pb: 60:02 -02
2002 Commonwealth bronze at 10,000m ... 2002 World Cross Country long
course silver

CHIMUSASA Tendai        ZIM     32y     pb: 60:26 -95
Zimbabwe marathon record holder, 9th in 2000 Olympic marathon ... 1994
Commonwealth 10,000m silver


Women
It will be a major upset if Paula Radcliffe were not to regain the title she won in 2000 and 2001. No-one has got remotely near to her in a road race for more than two years and there is much talk of potential world records at 15K, 20K on route to the full half marathon distance.

With the multi-lap course, we may well be treated to a sight similar to Radcliffe's epic 10,000m win at last year's European Championships, where the British runner lapped most of the field.

All of which is easy to say, but extremely difficult to achieve. One feels that Radcliffe will be happy enough to just win well over this strong field which includes four of the first eight from that wonderful World Championship 10,000m.

Defending Champion Berhane Adere and three-time silver medallist Susan Chepkemei will want to get nearer to the British runner than they did two weeks earlier in South Shields when they finished 1:58 and 2:11 behind Radcliffe's 65:40.

Will anyone try to stay with Radcliffe ?

Constantina Dita-Tomescu is also a brave front runner and will want to make amends for Paris when she dropped out of the marathon after another quick start. She will lead an experienced Romanian squad who will be looking to win the team title for a seventh time. Russia also have a powerful squad including Galina Bogomolova and Alla Zhilyayeva, both of whom have set Russian records at 10,000m this year.

Marla Runyan recently broke the United States record for 20K and looks set to achieve the highest even placing in this event by an athlete from her country.

Leading Contenders (subject to final declarations):

JOHNSON Benita  AUS     24y     Début
Oceanian record holder at 3000m, 5000m and 10,000m ... 6th-4th-5th at past
three World Cross Country Championships

ADERE Berhane ETH       30y     pb: 67:32 -03
Reigning World Champion at Half Marathon, 10,000m & indoor 3000m

RADCLIFFE Paula GBR     29y     pb: 65:40 -03
Her 2:15:25 marathon in 2003 regarded by many as the greatest ever
performance seen at any event in the history of women's athletics

CHEPKEMEI Susan KEN     28y     pb: 65:44 -02
Three times second in World Half Marathons

KOSGEI Selina   KEN     27y     pb: 71:16 -03
Surprise 2002 Commonwealth Games Champion at 10,000m, having previously
been best known as an 800m runner

DITA Constantina        ROM     33y     pb: 68:10 -02
(Married name-Tomescu) ... At 2001 World Championship marathon had a lead
of almost 2 minutes at 20K before being caught by pack at 35K

OLARU Nuta      ROM     33y     pb: 69:00 -02
Twice World Half Marathon team Champion

OLTEANU Iulia   ROM     36y     pb: 69:15 -94
Former World road 15K Champion

BIKTASHYOVA Lyudmila    RUS     29y     pb: 70:31 -01
Twice Russian Champion at 10,000m

BOGOMOLOVA Galina       RUS     25y     Début
Sixth in 2003 World 10,000m

ZHILYAYEVA Alla RUS     34y     pb: 69:43 -98
Broke Russian record when finishing fifth in the 2003 World 10,000m

JAVORNIK Helena SLO     37y     pb: 71:03 -03
2002 European Cross Country Champion ... owns all Slovenian records from
One Mile to Marathon

RUNYAN Marla    USA     34y     pb: 71:19 -02
Winner of three US titles in 2003 ... legally blind