William Kipsang of Kenya and Fatuma Sado of Ethiopia during a press 'meet and greet' in Mumbai on 12 Jan (SCMM Organisers) © Copyright
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Mumbai ready for new champions to emerge - PREVIEW

With a large number of runners in the starting line-up for this race for the first time, the ninth edition of Standard Chartered Mumbai Marathon on Sunday (15) is set to celebrate new champions this year.

The Standard Chartered Mumbai Marathon is an IAAF Gold Label Road Race.

As usual the field includes many world class athletes from Kenya and Ethiopia as well as a few European runners.  Apart from the ever-increasing prize money, this year’s race will have an added significance as the Mumbai Marathon is one of the designated events to achieve qualification for the Olympic Games in London.   Many aspirants, including the Indians, will try to gain an Olympic berth from here. The A and B standard for Olympic qualification will be 2:15 and 2:18 for men and 2:37 and 2:43 for women respectively.  

The unusual cool climate prevailing over here for the past few days and a little change in the course, for a 3 km stretch, is expected to produce fast times and new event records this year.

Kipsang heads the men’s field

Kenyan William Kipsang, who clocked an impressive 2:05:49 personal best when winning the Fortis Rotterdam Marathon less than four years ago leads the men’s challenge. There are another seven runners with sub 2:10 timings on the elite list released by the organisers.  

To make the contest interesting Kipsang is joined by Luke Kibet, the 2007 World champion, as well as Laban Moiben and Nixon Maschichin from Kenya.   Last year Moiben won the Ottawa marathon and Maschichin took the title in Linz.  The Kenyan squad is further aided by John Kyui, winner of Nagpur marathon in the same province last year, who went on to clock a PB of 2:10 at Zurich thereafter. Samson Limareng, who was third in Mumbai two years ago, was another notable runner to watch.

Moldovian Iaroslav Musinschi is one of the fastest among the non-Kenyans with 2:08:32 from Dusseldorf two years ago.  However Ethiopian Siraj Gena, who finished second here in 2010 beating Samson Limareng, is a shade quicker with his 2:08:31 clocking in Frankfurt last year.

Strong Ethiopian squad in women’s race

Ethiopian women are poised to sweep the podium with a half a dozen runners with sub 2:30 performances entering the race.

The favourites for top spot include Makda Harun, former Venice Marathon victor, and Fatuma Sado Dergo, second in last year’s Eurasia Istanbul Marathon.   Harun and Sado arrive here with personal bests of 2:27:30 and 2:28:01, which they clocked last year.  

Netsanet Abeyo, credited with a 2:28:28 fourth place finish in Rome last year, along with Aberesh Bedasa, who timed 2:29:47 for the runner-up position in Reims in 2011, will be genuine challengers for honours too.

Two of the other Ethiopian runners already have experience on the Mumbai roads.  Radiya Adlo, fifth in 2009, and Ayela Lemma, seventh in 2009 and tenth a year later, will be expected to help navigate their teammates on the familiar terrain.  

Important among the non-Ethiopians is Helaria Johannes of Namibia.  Johannes triumphed in Dublin last year with 2:30:37.  During her previous visit to the India two years ago, she finished 16th in the annual Delhi Half Marathon.    

Vijay Amritraj, the Indian tennis legend and former head of Association of Tennis Professionals, will be the brand ambassador for Mumbai Marathon this year.  Talking to media this evening, Amritraj narrates how running helped him to improve his health in younger age and formed a basis for his triumph in the tennis world.  

The iconic sportsman is supporting a large number of people through Vijay Amritraj Foundation, a charitable organisation he established ten years ago.  With Mumbai Marathon is involved in charities at large-scale, Amritraj’s presence will be expected to bring both the sporting community and NGOs together.

Ram. Murali Krishnan for the IAAF