Mary Keitany, Aberu Kebede and Aselefech Mergia in Bangalore. Mergia won the race with a sensational sprint in the waning metres. (Ram. Murali Krishnan) © Copyright

Merga and Mergia return to defend in Bangalore – preview

Bangalore, IndiaDefending champions Deriba Merga and Aselefech Mergia of Ethiopia along with past champions Elvan Abeylegesse from Turkey and Kenyan Grace Momanyi return for Sunday’s Third edition of the Sunfeast World 10K in Bangalore, an IAAF Gold Label Road Race.

Elite athletes from all parts of the world have already started to arrive at Bangalore. Wilson Kiprotich Kipsang, fourth at last year’s race and third at the Paris Marathon this year on his debut, is one of the first to arrive. Having run 27:42 for 10K en route to his silver winning effort in Ras Al Khaimah (RAK) in last year, Kipsang has high ambitions to break the course record of 27:51 standing in the name of Eritrean Zersenay Tadese since the inaugural race in 2008.

“I have prepared well and this event is going to be a part of my preparations towards the Commonwealth Games at Delhi this October,” Kipsang told the media on Thursday. 

Hilda Kibet, who migrated to Holland three years ago and brought the European Cross Country title to her adopted country, looks promising for Sunday’s ace although she’ll have to tackle the threat from athletes such as Momanyi, who hails from her native Kenya. Momanyi tied for the women’s crown with Turkey’s Elvan Abeylegesse involved in a rare dead-heat in 2008. Abeylegesse went on to win two silver medals in the 5000m and 10,000m at the Beijing Olympics later that year and is rated the top seed here.  However, Momanyi has some higher ambitions as she aiming to go for the top spot with faster time on Sunday.

What is more interesting will be the arrival of defending champions Deriba Merga and Aselefech Mergia on Friday evening.  Merga, fourth in the marathon at Beijing Olympic Games, has since posted a world best 41:29 for 15 Km while running the half-marathon at RAK.

Having clocked her personal best 32:08 to win the title in Bangalore last year, Mergia went on to win a bronze medal in the World championships marathon at Berlin after having led a major part of the race.

In all 26 men and 24 women make up the international elite fields.

The event organizers, Procam International, have increased the prize money to USD $155,000, with the winners taking home $21,000 each.  There is also a separate prize money structure to boost the Indian athletes in the main race.

Shawn Crawford, the Olympic gold medalist in 200m at Athens, will be the event ambassador for 2010.  Expressing his happiness on the appointment, Crawford praised India as a fast growing destination for world distance running and is confident that youngsters will pursue the sport in the coming years.

The organizers have also brought in Golden Star ‘Ganesh’, the Kannada cine actor with a humourous touch, to inspire huge participation of the Bangaloreans.

Like other road races held in other parts of the World, charity drives through pledges run by various NGOs have been part of the Sunfeast World 10K at Bangalore.  The race is said to have generated about INR 20 million ($425,000) in its first two years. The figure is expected to go up in 2010.

Ram. Murali Krishnan for the IAAF