Nijmegen, The Netherlands - Ethiopian Haile Gebrselassie and Japanese Mizuki Noguchi are the great names in Sunday's 28th edition of the Zevenheulenloop (Seven Hills run), an IAAF Silver label Road race, in the eastern Dutch city of Nijmegen.
During a very busy pre-race press conference Gebrselassie as well as Noguchi said they see Sunday's race as a very good preparation in their goal to qualify for the London Olympic marathon of next year.
Gebrselassie, who won the Zevenheulenloop over 15 kilometres six years ago in a still personal best of 41:57, told his audience that this race is a very important point in his preparation for the Tokyo marathon.
“I am in a very good condition. The breathing problems I had in the Berlin marathon in September are over and I feel very fine. The most important thing now is qualification for London.”
The most important opponent in Sunday's race is Kenyan Vincent Kipruto, who has a personal best marathon time of 2:05:13 (Rotterdam 2010, third) and was silver medallist in the marathon at the World Championships in Daegu last September.
Another dangerous opponent is David Barmassai Tumo (24) from Kenya, fifth in the Daegu World championships marathon. Another serious outsider is Ugandan Peter Kibet.
“I am in full preparation for the London Olympics,” the 33-year-old Mizuki Noguchi told her audience. “After this race I go back for training in Colorado in the United States for my final preparation for the Osaka Ladies marathon. I have to be there to be the first Japanese woman to qualify for London,” said the 2004 Olympic marathon champion.
The most important opponent for Noguchi are the 19 year old Ethiopian Waganesh Mekasha and the two years older Aki Odagiri from Japan who finished fourth last year In Nijmegen.
Elizab Cherono is a dark horse in the race. The 23 year old African woman is doing very well in races in The Netherlands. She won the Venloop half marathon in Venlo (March 27th in 1:11:26) and finished second in the Utrecht Singelloop (Sep.25th) in 32:13. Both times are personal bests.
The home crowd will specially watch 20 year old Dutch rising star Jesper van der Wielen, who wants to attack the Dutch national record of Marco Gielen, who clocked 43:38 in Nijmegen in 1999.
The World 15 kilometres records for men and women have both been set in Zevenheuvelenloop in Nijmegen. Leonard Patrick Komon (Kenya) clocked 41:13 last year (Nov.21) and Ethiopian Tirunesh Dibaba became the fastest woman in 46:28 on 15 November two years ago.
The 28th Zevenheulenloop has a record number of starters of over 33.000.
The weather forecast for Sunday is good: temperatures around 10 degrees CT, light wind and sunny.
Wim van Hemert for the IAAF