26 FEB 2010 Preview 26 February 2010 – San Juan, Puerto Rico

Kitwara and Cheruiyot return to defend San Juan titles - World’s Best 10K Preview

Vivian Cheruiyot, pictured here in 2009, defended her San Juan 10K crown in 2010 (Rafael Luna)Vivian Cheruiyot, pictured here in 2009, defended her San Juan 10K crown in 2010 (Rafael Luna) © Copyright
San Juan, Puerto RicoSammy Kitwara and Vivian Cheruiyot will race across the Teodoro Moscoso Bridge Sunday (28) evening to defend their titles in The World’s Best 10K in San Juan.

The World’s Best 10K is an IAAF Gold Label Event.

Kitwara to tangle with in-form Kipruto and Kipsang

Kitwara was last year’s road race revelation. First, he handed Haile Gebreslassie a rare defeat at the City-Pier-City Half Marathon. Then, he won the World’s Best 10K and the Peachtree road races. At World’s Best, which has featured such runners as Khalid Khannouchi and Paul Tergat, he ran faster than anyone has before, setting a course record of 27:26.

So far this year Kitwara has been in good form. He was second to Tilahum Regassa at the Zayed International Half Marathon in Abu Dhabi, finishing in 59:34. He was also second to Joel Kimurer at the Discovery Kenya Cross Country Championships.

Yet Kitwara will have his hands full in San Juan. Silas Kipruto, second in 2008 and 2009 returns, as does Wilson Kipsang, who was third last year in San Juan and finished third at the Discovery Kenya Cross Country Championships, just five seconds back of Kitwara. Ethiopia Deriba Merga, the 2008 champ, returns. He is the 2009 Boston Marathon champion and fourth place finisher at the Olympic Marathon in 2008. Merga dropped out of the Ras Al Khaimah last week for unspecified reasons but he is always dangerous.

But perhaps the strongest challenge could come from American Dathan Ritzenhein, who is running in San Juan for the first time. Ritzenhein took a bronze medal at last year’s IAAF World Half Marathon Championships, and should be ready to run the roads in San Juan. He also has plenty of leg speed, clocking a 12:56 for 5000m last fall. Earlier this month Ritzenhein was a convincing winner at the U.S. cross country championships.

As Cheruiyot, Masai and Keitany square off, can Abeylegesse again play spoiler?  – women’s race

Cheruiyot is the woman who dethroned Lornah Kiplagat last year after Kiplagat had virtually put her name on the race. Cheruiyot won last year in 31:12, a PB, and went on to take gold in the World Championships 5000m. Last weekend she was a very close second to Tirunesh Dibaba over two miles in Birmingham at the Aviva Grand Prix, clocking 9:12.35, an indication that there is a lot of speed in her legs at this time.

Cheruiyot will be strongly challenged by a deep field that includes Berlin 10,000m gold medallist Linet Masai, who was also fourth in the 2008 Olympic 10,000 and last week won the Kenyan World championships cross country trials; Mary Keitany, gold medalist at the 2009 World Half Marathon Championships; and Dire Tune, the 2008 Boston Marathon champ who was third last year and has placed fifth at the RAK Half Marathon and third at the Zayed International Half Marathon earlier this year.

Another interesting challenger is Turkey’s Elvan Abeylegesse, the Olympic silver medalist at 5000m and 10,000m. Abeylegesse has broken 30 minutes in the track and last week she ran the fastest debut half marathon (1:07:07) at RAK.

Come Sunday evening, it could be Abeylegesse’s strength versus Cheruiyot’s speed. 

Dave Kuehls for the IAAF