World record holder Leonard Komon, Sammy Kitwara and Moses Masai are set for a showdown at the 14th World’s Best 10K, an IAAF Gold Label Road Race, this Sunday (27) on the Teodoro Moscoso bridge.
The battle among the Kenyan trio at the most prestigious 10km race could produce a new course record and throated the 27-minute barrier. With the absence of two-time champion Vivian Cheruiyot, the Puerto Rican race will crown a new women’s champion.
Komon, 23, became the first man to dip under the 27-minute mark on the road when he ran 26:44 in Utrecht last September. Kitwara, the 2009 champion and 2010 runner-up, followed with 27:11 in the Dutch city, better than his winning 27:26 in San Juan two years ago. Masai, 24, arrives here as the defending champion after breaking Kitwara’s course record with 27:19.
When asked about the possibility of breaking the course record, Komon said “I will try, but no promises.”
“We are all excited. Very few have the honour of having the world record holder in their event. We expect a fast race on Sunday,” race director Rafael Acosta said.
Two other Kenyans will be gunning for victory, including reigning Worl Cross Country champion Joseph Ebuya (27:33 in 2008) and twice runner-up Silas Kipruto (27:28 in 2008), who lost the 2008 edition by taking a wrong turn a few metres from the finish line.
First victory for Ethiopia? - women's race
The women’s race also had high expectations, but defending champion Vivian Cheruiyot and her Kenyan compatriots Linet Masai and Silvia Kebet withdrew. Acosta said that the Kenyan athletics officials want to preserve them for the World Cross Country Championships next month.
With these three women out, Dire Tune is viewed as the top favourite for victory. The Ethiopian has been competing here since 2007 and was third in 2009 and last year with 31:51 and 31:40, respectively.
Tune should expect strong opposition from countrywomen Sentayehu Ejigu, Atsede Habtamu and Ayalew Wude Yimer, as well as Kenya’s 2010 Commonwealth champion and 2009 World Championships fourth place finisher Grace Momanyi. Momanyi shows a personal best of 31:34 from 2010. Habtamu ran 2:24:26 at the Dubai Marathon in January and shows a 10km best of 32:13 from 2008. Ejigu, a 1500/5000m track specialist, will make her debut over the distance. World Indoor 3000m bronze medallist Ejigu boasts a swift 14:28 in the 5000m. 2009 World Championships 10,000m bronze medallist Ayalew Wude Yimer is the fastest in the field with a PB of 30:11.87 on the track.
No Ethiopian woman has ever won the women’s title. Deriba Merga has taken the only win for Ethiopia, in 2008. The most decorated athlete in the history of the race is Kenyan-born Dutch Lornah Kiplagat, who took six titles.
The winners will pocket U$20,000, with prize money awarded to the top ten finishers. A $100,000 check is available for a world record as well as $10,000 for those breaking the 27:30 and 31:00 barriers.
A storied History
The first race on the Teodoro Moscoso was held on 23 February 1998 on the occasion of the bridge’s fourth anniversary. A total of 1215 runners participated and local stars Jacinto Rodríguez and Sandra Arroyo took the inaugural titles.
From its very beginning, the race was conceived as a special event with a close cooperation between the local government and community, the private sector and the media to become one of the most important annual sporting events in Puerto Rico.
The race became international in 2000 and was won by former Marathon World record holders, Moroccan-born American Khalid Kannouchi (28:35) and Kenya’s Tegla Loroupe (31:30). Participation increased to 2053 finishers.
In 2003, British Marathon World record holder Paula Radcliffe smashed the World record with a still standing 30:21. In 2008, the World’s Best 10K earned the status of IAAF Gold Label in 2008.
Apart from the elite race, the World’s Best 10K has become a weekend of sporting celebration for participants, relatives and friends. Attractions include a fitness festival, a health expo, the San Juan sporting festival, a duathlon and a mini race starting on Friday and ending with the 10km race at 5.25pm on Sunday. Acosta confirmed that 11,043 runners entered this year's race, although the numbers may increase as registration officially closes today.
The race will be dedicated to 78-year old two-time Olympian (1952-56) Reinaldo Olilver, a key figure in Puerto Rican athletics.
Outstanding local sportsmen will also feature in the mile race, held before the 10km. The list includes CAC Games gymnastics champions Rafael Morales, Luis Rivera, Alexander Rodríguez, Luis Vargas and Tommy Ramos.
The oldest participant is 91-year old Ramón Isales from Rio Piedra, Puerto Rico.
The race will be broadcast live on three local TV stations as well on the newspaper Primera Hora’s website (www.primerahora.com).
Javier Clavelo Robinson for the IAAF
Past champions (international race):
2000 (2,053 finishers)
Khalid Kannouchi MAR 28:35 and Tegla Loroupe KEN 31:30
2001 (3,281 finishers)
Paul Tergat KEN 28:25 and Lornah Kiplagat KEN 31:37
2002 (4,615 finishers)
Hendrick Ramaala RSA 28:15 and Paula Radcliffe GBR 30:43
2003 (7,044 finishers)
Hendrick Ramaala RSA 28:16 and Paula Radcliffe GBR 30:21 WR
2004 (8,841 finishers)
John Korir KEN 27:47 and Lornah Kiplagat NED 30:41
2005 (9,876 finishers)
John Korir KEN 27:55 and Lornah Kiplagat NED 32:11
2006 (11,409 finishers)
Wilson Kebenei Kiprotich KEN 27:44 and Lornah Kiplagat NED 30:50
2007 (12,481 finishers)
Gilbert Okari KEN 28:08 and Lornah Kiplagat NED 31:05
2008 (11,449 finishers)
Deriba Merga ETH 28:03 and Lornah Kiplagat NED 31:02
2009 (10,652 finishers)
Sammy Kitawara KEN 27:26 and Vivian Cheruiyot KEN 31:12
2010 (7,918 finishers)
Moses Ndiema Masai KEN 27:19 and Vivian Cheruiyot KEN 31:07