Abel Anton after winning the marathon at the 1999 IAAF World Championships (Allsport) © Copyright
General News Madrid, Spain

Abel Anton heads for Seoul

Spain's two-time world marathon champion Abel Anton will run one marathon before the Sydney Olympics, in the South Korean capital of Seoul on March 19, the runner told Reuters on Monday.

"Now all the fiestas and award ceremonies have to stop and it is time to get back down to business," Anton said.

In choosing to run in Seoul, Anton has turned his back on the London Marathon in which he has raced for the last two years and won in 1998.

"London has been very good to us and, if all goes well, it would be good if Abel could go back there next spring as Olympic champion," Anton's manager Miguel Mostaza said.

"However the reasons we chose Seoul were two-fold. Firstly it fits better into our preparations for the Olympics, coming a month earlier than London, and also Seoul made a much better financial offer."

"Everything I am doing is focused on the Olympics," Anton said.

Anton received arguably the biggest cheer of the world athletics championships in August when, in front of an ecstatic home crowd, he entered the Seville Olympic stadium nearly half a minute clear of the rest of the field to take the men's marathon

He admitted that following his triumph at the 1995 world championships he relaxed too much in the months that followed. This time around though, he said he had been more circumspect in his celebrations and accepting the numerous invitations that have come his way.

The 37-year-old runner has European and world titles to show for a long career in the sport but an Olympic medal is missing from his collection.

"If I win the gold medal in Sydney maybe then I can call myself Spain's greatest ever athlete but at the moment Fermin Cacho has that title," Anton said.

Cacho memorably won the 1992 Olympic men's 1,500 metres gold medal on home soil in Barcelona, becoming the first Spanish runner to win an Olympic title.

Anton and Cacho both come from the same small town of Soria, about 160 miles north-east of the Spanish capital Madrid, have the same coach and are good friends as well as occasional training partners, despite their different specialities.

Phil Minshull (Reuters) for the IAAF