19 MAR 2010 Preview Rome, Italy

Barus and Dado the favourites as Rome celebrates 50th Anniversary of Bikila’s Olympic triumph - preview

Firehiwot Dado wins the Rome Marathon with a 2:27:08 PB (Giancarlo Colombo)Firehiwot Dado wins the Rome Marathon with a 2:27:08 PB (Giancarlo Colombo) © Copyright

Benson Barus and defending women’s champion Firewot Dado will start as favourites in Sunday’s Rome AceaElectrabel Marathon.

The 16th edition of the Rome AceaElectrabel Marathon, an IAAF Silver Label Road Race, will also celebrate the 50th Anniversary of the 1960 Olympic Games in the Eternal City where Ethiopian legend Abebe Bikila, running bare-footed, triumphed in the Marathon.

Barus and Manza lead the men’s field

The top names for men’s race will be Kenyans Benson Barus and Nicholas Manza Kamakya who will start as favourites. Barus, a former IAAF World junior champion in the 10,000m, is a well-known name for Italian fans as he won many prestigious marathons and other road races in Italy. He set his PB of 2:08:33 in Milan in 2006 and won last April’s Turin Marathon in 2:09:07. Kamakya set his PB of 2:08:42 in the Beijing Marathon in October 2009.

The other five Kenyan men who can aim for the victory stand will be Vincent Kiplagat (2:09:22), James Chemboi (PB 2:10:24), Philemon Rotich (PB 2:10:26), David Kipchumba (PB 2:10:52) and David Kiptanui (PB 2:10:57).

As this year’s Rome race is focused on the celebration of Bikila’s legendary run, Ethiopia will also be in the spotlight on Sunday. Ethiopia will be represented by Habteselassie Gemechu (PB 2:10:19), Sirai Gena (PB 2:10:41), Shume Hailu (PB 2:11:26), Kedir Fifadu (PB 2:11:39).

Daniele Meucci will provide the Italian interest. The young Italian distance-runner, who is considered as the major Italian marathon hope, will make his debut over the 42 km distance after some solid outings on the road such as his 18th place at the World Half Marathon Championships in Birmingham last fall where he was the top European runner. More recently he ran 1:02:41 at the Roma-Ostia Half Marathon on 28 February. Meucci, a European Under 23 bronze medallist in the 10,000m, ran the 5000m at last summer’s World Championships in Berlin.

Two other European top names Migidio Bourifa from Italy (PB 2:09:07) and Ukraine’s Oleksander Sitkovskiy (PB 2:10:36) will also carry the major European hopes against Kenya and Ethiopia.

With Bikila as motivation, Dado looking to defend

The women’s race will feature top names from Ethiopia, Europe and Japan. Defending champion Dado (PB 2:27:08) said she will find extra motivation on Sunday with the race’s remembrance of Bikila. Dado, who comes from Arsi, said last year after her surprising win, “Abebe Bikila has always been an inspiration for me.”

Dado will be challenged by 20-year-old Mare Dibaba, who ran an impressive 1:07:13 in Ras Al Kaimah, the second fastest time of the year. The Ethiopian contingent will be completed by her compatriots Kebebush Haile (PB 2:28:08 for third place in Rome last year) and other runners with 2:30 PBs like Tiruwork Mekonnen, Konjit Biruk and Fate Tola Geleto.

The European challenge will be led by Tetyana Filonyuk from Ukraine, runner-up in Rome last year behind Dado in 2:27:34, and Zivile Balciunaite from Lithuania (PB 2:25:15). Japan sends four runners: Kayoko Obata (PB 2:25:14), Junko Ishikawa (PB 2:28:20), Mineko Yamanuchi (PB 2:31:51) and Satoko Uetani (PB 2:33:55).

Organisers confirmed a record 15,346 entrants from 83 countries. More than 85,000 runners will take part in the mass 4 km Roma-Fun race which will be set from the worldwide Via dei Fori Imperiali.

Personalised Golden Gala bib giveaway

Organisers of Rome's Golden Gala (10 June), the fourth stop on this year's inaugural IAAF Diamond League series, will also have a strong presence.

Visitors to the Golden Gala's area at the The Roma City Marathon Village will be able to get a special Golden Gala bib, personalized with their own names. Owners of the bibs will then be able to take part in the opening parade of the Golden Gala, just one hour before the meeting, providing a unique opportunity to walk on the surface of the monumental Olympic Stadium, host venue of the 1960 Olympic Games. Visitors will be able to meet “Romeo”, a Roman red-haired cat, the new Golden Gala Mascot.

Diego Sampaolo for the IAAF