Beatrice Omwanza on her way to 2005 Turin Marathon win (Lorenzo Sampaolo) © Copyright
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Wide open races expected at Sunday’s Turin Marathon

22 September 2006The Turin Marathon scheduled for Sunday 24 September kicks off a busy autumn marathon season in Italy which also features Milan (8 October), Carpi (15 October), Venice (22 October) and Florence (26 November).

The Winter Olympic Games in Turin last February caused the change of date for the Turin race from its traditional spring date to the end of September.

Kenya vs. Ethiopia in men's race

This year the Turin Marathon, which celebrates its 20th anniversary, is set to be a wide-open competition between runners from Kenya and Ethiopia. There are no clear favourites but the race may develop into a battle between Kenyans Willy Cheruiyot (PB 2:08:48) and Paul Kirui (2:08:53) and Ethiopians Ashebir Demissu (PB 2:09:14) and Tadesse Hailemariam (2:09:34).

The most prominent name in the field is Cheruiyot who set his career best when he won the Vienna Marathon in 2000 in 2:08:48. More recently he finished first in three editions of the fast Eindhoven Marathon in 2002 (2:10:10), 2003 (2:09:05) and 2005 (2:09:20).

Another 2:08 runner is compatriot David Kirui who ran a 2:08:53 career best in Paris in 2003.

The Ethiopian challenge is led by Ashebir Demissu (fifth in Rotterdam in 2003 in 2:09:14 and third in Hamburg in 2005 in 2:10:40), Tadesse Hailemariam (PB 2:09:34 in Amsterdam 2003) and Habtamu Bekele (PB 2:10:42 in Rome 2003). 

The Turin Marathon has always had a reputation in revealing “unknown” names who rose to the occasion by winning in the northern Italian city. Among past winners who used Turin as a springboard for their careers were Joseph Chebet (first in 1997 in 2:08:23), Japhet Kosgei (first in 1998 in 2:09:59), Sammy Korir (first in 1999 in 2:08:27) and two-time winner Simeretu Alemayhu, who set the men’s all-comers record in Italy with 2:07:44 in 2001 when he beat future Olympic champion Stefano Baldini. One year earlier Alemayhu started in Turin with a modest 2:14 PB and won the first important marathon of his career in 2:08:33.

This year other “unknowns” with 2:11 to 2:12 best may follow in the footsteps of Chebet, Kosgei, Korir and Alemayhu.

Women - Can Omwanza successfully defend?

The women’s race features as an interesting clash between Beatrice Omwanza from Kenya and Olesya Nurgalyeva from Russia.

Omwanza holds the best time with a career best of 2:27:19 set in Berlin where she finished fourth in 2004. The Kenyan also took a Paris Marathon title in 2003 where she crossed the finish-line in 2:27:44.

Olesya Nurgalyeva emerged in 2004 when she beat her twin sister Yelena in the Frankfurt Marathon by one second (2:29:48 to 2:29:49). In 2005 Olesya ran the fastest time of her career in New York with 2:29:35.

Diego Sampaolo for the IAAF