Sileshi Sihine in Nijmegen (Aktiefoto) © Copyright
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Dibaba and Sihine lead the fields in Nijmegen

Nijmegen, The NetherlandsIt’ll be a family affair at Sunday’s 26th running of the Fortis Zevenheuvelenloop 15-K on Sunday with the Ethiopian couple Tirunesh Dibaba and Sileshi Sihine leading their respective fields.

The course for the Zevenheuvelenloop, or seven hills run - an IAAF Label Road Race - in this eastern Dutch city is a proven fast one. Kenyan Felix Limo clocked the world record on the 15 kilometres for men here on 11 November 2001 with a time of 41:29.

For Dibaba, the reigning double Olympic champion in the 5000m and 10,000m, it will be her first road race and the 24-year-old has made a special preparation for this race. Dibaba has already had an impressive career with several World titles in the 5000m and 10,000m on the track as well as in Cross Country. She holds the World record in the 5000m with a time of 14:11.15.

Sihine, Dibaba's husband, knows the undulating course well. He’s won the event twice already, with victories in 2004 and 2007. In 2004 he came within nine seconds of Limo’s World record, a performance which still marks him as the ninth fastest over the distance. Sihine, 27, won Olympic silver in the 10,000m in both 2004 and 2008. After a recovery from an injury, Sihine too has been targeting his race as we looks for a third victory.

Sihine’s compatriot, Ayele Abshiro, will return to defend the title he won here last year. Abshiro, the World junior Cross Country champion this year, clocked 42:17 last year. He’ll celebrate his 19th birthday on 28 December.

Strong opponents for the Ethiopians include Ugandan national record holder in the Half Marathon Nicholas Kiprono and South African Sibusiso Nzima. The leading Dutch opponents are Greg van Hest, Sander Schutgens, Patrick Stitzinger and Marco Gielen, who always runs very well in this race.

Opposition for Dibaba will come from compatriot Bezunesh Bekele, 26, who won this event in 2007 in a still personal best of 47:36.  Bekele won the Dubai Marathon in January this year in 2:24:02. The Ethiopian pair will also face formidable opposition from Kenyans Louise Kangogo and Agnes Kiprotich, who finished, respectively, third in the 20Km of Alphen aan den Rijn and fourth in the Parelloop 10Km in Brunssum.

Dutch honours will be defended by Merel de Knegt and Ilse Pol.

Wim van Hemert for the IAAF