Peter Gambaccini (Reuters)
3 November 2000 - New York - Defending champion Adriana Fernandez of Mexico hopes to make up for a disappointing performance in the Olympics with another run to victory in Sunday's New York City Marathon.
"I want to be the the very best in the world. I want to be number one," she said on Friday. Following her experience in Sydney, the Mexican understands "I have to take it one step at a time."
Fernandez was running smoothly and fiercely through the
first 30 kilometres of the women's marathon in Sydney,
experiencing what she realises now was "a bit of overconfidence. She was "not thinking of anything but first place." But she was in fourth, and the sight of three runners ahead of her abruptly caused "a lack of focus, a lack of concentration. My legs started to feel heavy." She faded to 16th place.
After four days of rest, Fernandez regrouped and decided to return to New York, where she ran all alone for the second half of 1999's race and won in 2:25:06, the second fastest time (behind Lisa Ondieki's 2:24:40 in 1992) in the history of the New York City Marathon.
"I believe my preparation for the Olympics was the
greatest I ever had in life," insists Fernandez. "And I am still in
great shape. Anything is possible."
Fernandez's strongest challengers on Sunday include two former New York City winners, world record holder (2:20:43) Tegla Loroupe of Kenya, who won in New York in 1994 and 1995, and Italy's Franca Fiacconi, the 1998 champion.
The field also includes Japan's Yuri Airmori, the 1992 Olympic silver medalist and 1996 bronze medalist, and Kenyan Margaret Okayo, who was second in the 1999 Chicago Marathon with 2:26:00.
Other contenders include Australia's Kerryn McCann, whose career best is 2:25:59, and two Chinese athletes, Sun Tingjie and Ai Dongmei, whose best times are 2:25:45 and 2:27:30, respectively.
Fernandez is confident, but submits "you can't underestimate anybody."
Last year, she passed Fiacconi at the nine-mile mark and kept pressing the pace because "I didn't know how far back second place was. I was scared. I didn't want anybody to catch me." She finished 2:28 ahead of runner-up Catherine Ndereba of Kenya.
The New York City Marathon had had several male champions from Mexico, but Fernandez was the first woman titlist
Fernandez, now 29, began running in a Mexico City park at age 15 to keep company with her father Daniel, a former amateur boxer.
In the aftermath of her New York triumph, "there are
many more women running in Mexico now," she says. "They need more time for you
to see them" at the world class level, "but they will develop."