04 NOV 2000 General News

Two-time winners Loroupe and Silva return to New York

Twotime winners Loroupe and Silva return to New York
Bert Rosethal (AP)

4 November 2000 - New York -  To Tegla Loroupe, ``New York is like home. It's like family.'' German Silva has the same feeling, because of the way New Yorkers have adored him.

New Yorkers began embracing the two marathoners in 1994. That year, Silva won the New York City Marathon despite making a wrong turn heading toward the finish in Central Park and Loroupe won the women's division in her marathon debut, becoming the first female African winner of a major 26.2-mile (42.2-kilometre) race.

A year later, they repeated as champions. Since then, Loroupe has run the New York City Marathon three times and Silva twice.

"They felt like two little kids when they stood on either side of me,'' race director Allan Steinfeld said of the awards ceremonies when Loroupe and Silva were champions. "New York has adopted them.''

Loroupe, now the holder of the world marathon best, again heads the women's field for Sunday's race, the 25th through the city's five boroughs, and Silva is among the top men's contenders.

"I would love to see a repeat of '94 and '95,'' Steinfeld said. ``That would be a three-peat, although not in a row.''

The 4-foot-11-inch (1.48-metre), 88-pound (40-kilogram) Loroupe's most difficult competition is expected from defending champion Adriana Fernandez of Mexico, 1998 winner Franca Fiacconi of Italy, and 1992 Olympic silver medalist and 1996 bronze medalist Yuko Arimori of Japan.

The 5-foot-3 (1.58-metre), 112-pound (50-kilogram) Silva will face a field that includes 1997 and 1998 champion John Kagwe of Kenya, 1996 Olympic gold medalist Josia Thugwane of South Africa, 1999 London Marathon winner Abdelkhader El Mouzaiz of Morocco, and Japhet Kosgei of Kenya, unbeaten in four marathons.

Although Loroupe has not enjoyed the success in the New York City Marathon that she had five and six years ago, the Kenyan still is considered a major celebrity in the city. At the awards ceremonies at the Mini Marathon in Central Park in June, which she won for the fifth time, spectators stormed the metal barricades, taking hundreds of photographs of her.

When people stop and ask for her autograph in the city - or even any other place in the world - she is always agreeable. She pulls out a card with her picture on it and signs.

Loroupe finished seventh in the 1996 New York City Marathon, seventh again in 1997 and third in 1998. Last year, she did not compete because she had run the Berlin Marathon six weeks earlier, breaking her world best by four seconds with a time of 2 hours, 20 minutes, 43 seconds, but was invited by the New York organizers to attend the race.

"A lot of people stopped me and asked me why I wasn't running,'' Loroupe said. "Even though I didn't run, a lot of people were encouraging me. They're always so friendly. They always wish the best for you. They remember me.''

Despite her two world records, her two New York City Marathon victories, and wins in the London and Rome Marathons this year, Loroupe considers her most important triumph her first Mini Marathon in 1994.

"That's when I decided to run the marathon for the first time,'' she said.

Unlike a year ago, Loroupe is running a marathon six weeks after her previous marathon - a 13th-place finish at the Olympics. Not only did Loroupe run the marathon at the Sydney Games, she also ran a semifinal and final of the 10,000 metres, placing fifth.

The indefatigable Kenyan, whose body doesn't appear strong enough to absorb constant pounding, followed that by running a half-marathon in England two weeks ago, finishing second.

She did not want to skip New York for a second straight time. "It was fixed in my mind to run New York again,'' she said.

Loroupe was bitterly disappointed in her Olympic performance. At 2 a.m. the day of the race, she was jarred out of her sleep by a nausea attack. That was the only night Loroupe stayed in the Olympic village, and she thinks food poisoning caused her illness. Otherwise, she lived in a house outside Sydney. It was at the suggestion of the Kenyan federation that she moved into the village for the one night and had dinner there.

"I was not happy with the federation,'' she said. "It was bad timing. ``I don't know what made me sick.''

Silva has experienced his own physical ailments. A knee injury and a back muscle problem have slowed his progress in recent years. After his New York victories, he came back in 1997 and placed fifth and in 1998 he finished fourth. Last year, he was supposed to be a pacesetter for the first 13.1 miles (21.1 kilometres), but wound up running 18.5 miles (29.8 kilometres) before jumping onto the lead press truck.

"I told John (Kagwe) I will compete with you this time, no more competing with cars,'' Silva said. Silva regrets stopping last year, because he was feeling so good, and if he had continued he might have qualified for the Mexican Olympic team. He tried again to make the Olympic team at the London Marathon in April, but dropped out halfway through the race because of the back injury.

The charismatic, energetic Silva is pleased at returning to New York. "I'm glad to be back here in our home, with close friends,'' he said, including Loroupe in his remark. "Some of the closest friends I have I met here.

"I've been telling Tegla we have to do it again. I'm very motivated again.'' Much of that motivation came from training for five weeks with world record-holder Khalid Khannouchi at Sleepy Hollow, New York.

"I learned a lot from him,'' Silva said about Khannouchi. "He's a dedicated person. You don't need much time with him to learn why he broke the world record and wins a lot.''

A field of about 30,000 will start the race, and the men's and women's winners will each receive dlrs 65,000 - an increase of dlrs 15,000 from last year.

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