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General News Albany, New York

Johnson to battle with top Africans as she attempts fourth 5km win in New York

In the four years the Freihofer's Run for Women has been open to international athletes, only one African athlete , Morocco’s Asmae Leghzaoui (2005) has ever won the coveted title.

That may change in 2009, as one of the deepest African fields assembles in Albany, NY for the 31st running of the 5km road race on Saturday, 30 May.

The Freihofer's Run for Women is an IAAF Silver Label Road Race.

Along with Russia's Mariya Konovalova, fifth at the 2008 Olympic 10,000m - see 'Related Content' under main photograph to the right of this text to read previous story - the African continent's that will line-up on Saturday offers the biggest threat to unseat Australia’s three-time race winner Benita Johnson, the 2004 World XC champion.

Leading the African charge will be Teyba Erkesso, 26, who comes to New York having won twice last weekend's over 10km in Ottawa, Canada (Sat 23 May), then Bay to Breakers 12K (Mon 25 May).  She also finished second at the 2009 Bloomsday Run (5 May) and set a course record (2:24:18) at this year's Houston Marathon (18 Jan).

"Teyba is definitely a threat at this year's race and has a history of competing against Benita on the Freihofer's course," said Elite Athlete Recruiter John Tope, noting that the Ethiopian finished third in 2007.

Erkesso will be joined on the start line by two fellow countrywomen: Ashu Kasim, 24, the fourth place finisher at this year's Paris Marathon and Mamitu Daska, 25, whose U.S. results include third at the 2008 Parkersburg Half Marathon and fourth at the 2008 Falmouth Road Race.

Kenya will also be well represented. No fewer than five athletes will make the trip to upstate New York, including Jane Gakunyi, 29, who competed for her country at the 2004 Athens Olympics at 5000m; Millicent Gathoni, 22, winner of the 2008 Bolder Boulder event; Genoveva Kigen, 29, victor of the Fifth Third River Bank Run 25K, which doubled as the US 25k Championship; Rose Kosgei, 27, winner at this year's Hervis Prague Half Marathon; and, Salome Kosgei, first place finisher at this year's Bermuda International 10k.

"Once again, Africa is well represented at Freihofer's," added Tope. "The Kenyans and Ethiopians are especially known for their daring hard style of running and are anxious to break the drought of recent years. I am sure they will be right at the front battling Benita for the title."

Other Africans expected to lead the charge include Burundi's Diane Nukuri, 24, who represented her nation at the 2000 Sydney Olympics and Rene Kalmer, 29, a 2008 Olympian for South Africa at 1500m, who'll be making her debut on U.S. roads at this event.

Edward Parham (organisers) for the IAAF