MonteCarloAthletes from a record number of 64 nations will contest both individual and team honours at the 13th IAAF World Half Marathon Championships in the Indian capital of New Delhi on Sunday 3 October.
Last year’s team winners in Vilamoura, Portugal were Tanzania (men) and Russia (women). 2003 was a disappointing year for Kenya the seven times men and four times women’s team title winners. Their men were surprisingly outpaced by Tanzania and their women’s ninth place was particularly low key.
In 2004, the Kenyan men’s team includes the 2002 winner Paul Kosgei and 22 year-old John Cheruiyot Korir, 6th in the Olympic 10,000m, who comes to New Delhi off the back of a good win over 9.8km (30:10, 19 Sep) in Catania, Italy.
Korir was fourth in the World Half last year splitting the finish of two of the Tanzanian trio, Martin Sulle (3rd) and John Yuda (5th), who helped secure the team prize for their nation. These two runners are not in India but the Tanzanians will still be led by Fabiano Joseph, the silver medallist from last year.
A young Ugandan team headed by 23 year-old Wilson Busienei, along with relatively inexperienced line-ups from Ethiopia, Morocco and Japan, but most particularly a Qatari squad led by former Kenyan Albert Chepkuri, now Abdullah Ahmad Hassan, the 2003 World 10,000m fourth placer, could all be in the mix for individual and team honours.
The women’s Half Marathon on an individual level seems to be down to a battle between Ireland’s Sonia O’Sullivan and China’s Sun Yingjie.
O’Sullivan came sixth only last weekend in the Great North Run (68:55) and will have her work cut out staying with Sun Yingjie who took the World 10,000m bronze in 2003. The Chinese runner who is the world's third-fastest ever marathon runner is in peak form, having won an incredible 5000m (15:41.47) and 10,000m (31:47.23) double on the same day (Sunday 26 Sep) in China's National Grand Prix final!
Japan who have finished second as a team on four occasions are led by Yuki Saito, who has run 10,000 in 31:41.49.
Also, in individual and team terms never write off the Romanians who have six team victories to their credit in World Half team competition. In 2004 they are led by last year’s fifth placer Constantina Tomescu, and Mihaela Botezan who has been 6th (2000), 10th (2001) and 4th (2002) in past editions of the World Half.
The defending team champions Russian have a line-up which is missing all their scorers from 2003 but they still should not be discounted for a podium finish, as this was also the scenario before last year’s race. None of the team which had won silver in 2002 featured in the trio which went on to secure the win in Vilamoura.
The Kenyans with a lot to prove after last year’s lowly ninth place will count on the experience of Leah Malot, 32, who was second in the spring Lisbon Marathon (69:35), while their neighbours Ethiopia are led by Teyiba Erkesso, who was third in the short and fifth in the long course races respectively at this year’s World Cross Country Championships.
What is certain is that there will be new individual World Half Marathon champions crowned on Sunday, as last year’s winners Martin Lel (KEN), due to injury, and Paula Radcliffe (GBR), season is ended, will not compete in New Delhi.
Chris Turner for the IAAF