BM 02: BERLIN WINNER PROFILES
NAOKO TAKAHASHI - RAYMOND KIPKOECH
2002-09-29Naoko Takahashis place in athletics history is as secure as her financial prospects in these difficult economic times. The 30 year old Japanese was assured sporting immortality two years ago in Sydney when she became the first native born Olympic winner in a country for whom the marathon is virtually a religion (Kitei Son in 1936 was a Korean, Sohn Kee-chung). When she followed that up with the first womens sub-2hr 20mins marathon (2.19.46) here in Berlin last year, she became a gilt-edged commodity. The half dozen sponsorships which followed her Olympic success netted her an estimated $4m last year. And her latest victory, in Berlin today, will ensure she stays in the public eye, the more so since she is running a major marathon back back at home for the first time in four years, the Tokyo Womens Marathon on November 17.
But first shes going to enjoy a little quality shopping time. A calf injury in training at Boulder, Colorado a month ago meant that she was never going to chase the new world record - Kenyan, Catherine Nderebas 2.18.47 in Chicago last year - but everyone was satisfied with her 2.21.49 victory today. "My coach (Yoshio Koide) told me he was very happy with my performance, and he has given me five days off from training, so we are going to go to Milan shopping before we go home".
However, she is unlikely to get through the $60,000 she earned in Berlin, let alone hit the bank account back home. Her manager, Hitoshi Yasuno said, "She went shopping her in Berlin a couple of days ago, and she couldn decide between two items, one which cost 69 euros ($69), and the other, 82 euros. So shes not a big spender".
Takahashi revealed after the race that she had worn the ring left by her grandmother, Ineko, after she died earlier this year. "It was my good luck charm," she said.
Raymond Kipkoech was as surprised as anyone else in Berlin by his victory in the marathon this morning (Sunday). "I only got into the race a week ago, and I never expected to win, I just wanted to improve my time". He certainly did that with a vengeance. From a debut 2hr 10min 52sec for fifth place in Milano 2000, and a win in 2.12.32 in Enschede (Netherlands) in April this year, the 23 year old crashed the worlds elite marathoners with his Berlin victory in 2.06.47, equal tenth on the all-time list with Fred Kiprop, one of the colleagues he credits with tempting into beginning training just over three year ago.
Kipkoech is from the village of Kapsait, situated at 3000 metres near the Ugandan border. The area is best known as the homeland of Tegla Loroupe, former womens world record holder, first in Rotterdam, then in this same Berlin race three years ago. But the village is also the site of one of the first local training camps built by Kipkoechs cousin, Eric Kimaiyo, with money Kimaiyo himself won on the marathon circuit. It was, says Kipkoech, the example set by Kimaiyo, Kiprop, Sammy Korir, and the man he outsprinted for victory today, world silver medallist Simon Biwott which started him running, "I saw they were successful, and I just had to follow in their footsteps".
With runners like Kipkoech emerging virtually every month from Kenya, the country is unlikely to lose it cachet as the forge of champions. Kenyans filled eight of the top ten places in Berlin.
"Because my best was 2.10, I just wanted to improve," said Kipkoech. "I would have been happy with 2.08, 2.09. But Im very happy with 2.06". The $60,000 prize money will doubtless come in useful as well.
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