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The top athletes of the 30th real,- BERLIN-MARATHON

2003-09-26

Number 1: Raymond Kipkoech

The fundamentals of running may be simple: you start training, you improve and, depending on the blend of talent and hard work, you improve. There are some Golden Rules, though, which everyone is supposed to obey, like never wearing new shoes for a race, especially not a marathon. The predicted result is blisters, blood and pain. Not for the Berlin 2002 mens champion, Raymond Kipkoech. The Kenyan, who only entered the race a couple of days beforehand, did exactly what you should not do, but took over four minutes off his personal best to beat fellow countryman and 2001 World silver medallist Simon Biwott in 2:06:47. Berlin had never seen a marathon finish like it, as three men broke 2:07 with Vincent Kipsos only three seconds behind. Admitting, post-race, that he had worn new shoes, the 25-year-old conceded that he did have a blister, but the problem had not affected him that much. He is certainly from a background where the “Dos and Don s" of distance running are well taught : coached by the Italian Dr. Gabriele Rosa, he decided he was ready for Berlin after a training run of 35 kilometres in Kapsait in Kenya, at an altitude of 3,000 metres, about a week before the race. Overcoming the doubts of Dr. Rosa that he would not be sufficiently recovered, Kipkoech, also known as Chemwelo at times during his career, entered the Berlin lists almost unnoticed. But the previous personal best of 2:10:52, set in finishing fifth in the Torino marathon in March 2000, was rapidly erased. From a farming family, Kipkoech has two brothers and three sisters. Hes the eldest, but mentioned last year that a 16-year-old brother and 14-year-old sister have also turned to running, inspired by the Berlin champions achievements.

Number 2: Paul Tergat

The tall, elegant Kenyan has as strong a claim as any to be considered the greatest cross-country runner of all time, twice won Olympic silver medals on the track and yet, having turned to the marathon, has so far encountered athletes of equal pedigree barring his path to victory. His epic duels with Ethiopias Haile Gebrselassie in the Olympic 10,000 metres of 1996 and 2000, especially their home straight charge in Sydney, have been the epitome of distance running brilliance. World cross-country champion five times in succession from 1995, he made his marathon debut in London 2001. Admitting he was still learning the craft of the classic road distance, Tergat finished second, just over a minute behind Moroccos Abdelkader El Mouaziz but satisfied with his time of 2:08:15.


Tegla Loroupe and a team of volunteers of the real,- BERLIN MARATHON motivating Paul Tergat.

He was runner-up again in Chicago in October of the same year, surprised when a fellow Kenyan, Benjamin Kimondiu, abandoned his pacemaking role for that of racer. His amicable rivalry with Gebrselassie was renewed in London 2002, contributing to one of the greatest races in history : Khalid Khannouchi of the USA improved his world record by 4 seconds to win in 2:05:38 while Tergat, though at last enjoying success over his Ethiopian rival, again finished runner-up in the third fastest time ever, 2:05:48, a Commonwealth record, beating Gebrselassie on the latters marathon debut by 47 seconds. In London this year Tergat was again a leading contender, taking fourth place in the closest finish in the events history : the Olympic champion Gezahegne Abera won but nine seconds covered the top six men, Tergat finishing in 2:07:59, just behind the 2001 Berlin champion and fellow Kenyan, Joseph Ngolepus. The physical and mental skills are in place, sharpened by his longterm work with the Italian Dr. Gabriele Rosa. Will Berlin mark a winning turning point in his quest for the Olympic marathon title next year?

Number 7: Noriaki Igarashi
Japan (b. 28 October 1972)
Marathon best : 2:09:26

To finish fourth in Fukuoka, as Noriaki Igarashi did in December 2000 while Atsushi Fujita broke the Japanese record with 2:06:51, is the mark of a high-class performer. All the more impressive, this marked a return to form after undergoing achilles tendon surgery in January of the same year, improving on his fourth place in 1998 by 12 seconds. He has gone close to his fastest time since then, running 2:09:35 for fith place in Chicago in 2001. Despite a solid third place in 2:10:11 in Tokyo, which formed one of three Japanese marathon trials, along with Fukuoka and Lake Biwa, for the 2003 World Championships, he wasn selected for Paris. Their national squad beat Italy and South Africa to the World Marathon Cup title, but Berlin is a prompt opportunity for Igarashi to remind the national selectors of his abilities.

Number 8 : Satoshi Osaki
Japan (b. 4 June 1976)
Marathon best : 2:09:38

Winner of the 2002 Asian marathon gold after finishing fifth in Hong Kong, Osaki achieved his best time in finishing second as Ethiopias Hailu Negusse retained the Hofu title in Japan, three days before last Christmas. He carried that road speed onto the track in 2003, running his fastest ever 10,000 metres in 28:54.59 at Kobe in Japan in late April. His best for the half-marathon is 62:56, achieved in Osaka in February 2001. The Japanese have entered this years Berlin marathon with strength in depth, have a consistent record of individual and team success in the race while Osaki, along with Igarashi, is one of their sub-2:10 performers.

Number 3: Janne Holmen
Finland (b. 26 September 1977)
Marathon best : 2:12:14

It was like turning the clock back almost eighty years to see Janne Holmen win the European title in Munich last year. Here was a distance runner in the distinctive Finnish blue, beating Estonias Pavel Loskutov by almost a minute for the gold, while Spain, so often along with Italy providing the top European in championship marathons, having to be content with Julio Rey as bronze medallist and the team prize. Holmens ability to run his fastest on the big occasion evoked memories of his "Flying" compatriots such Hannes Kohlemainen, the 1920 Olympic marathon and Albin Stenroos, gold medallist four years later in Paris, where Paavo Nurmi secured his place among the immortals with five golds. The Holmen family are entitled to their place in history as well : his mother Nina was the first winner of the womens European 3,000 metres title in 1974 and his father Rune, also the coach, was a finalist in the 1971 European 5,000 metres. The streets of Berlin are familiar to the European marathon champion : he finished ninth in 64:20 in the capitals half-marathon in early April. Winning the Finnish national 10,000 metres title in August and running a personal best for the distance of 28:09.94 in mid-June indicated Holmen should be sharp and ready for his first marathon since bringing Finland their first European marathon win in 48 years.

Number 26: Andre Ramos
Brazil (b. 20 January 1970)
Marathon best : 2:08:26

Ramos returns to Berlin where he finished 12th in 2001. Four years before he was ninth. Set those achievements alongside his fourth place in the 1998 Boston marathon and another top ten finish on Patriots Day the year before, and the Brazilian clearly has a range of skills to cope with the hills of New England as well as the more runaway-type course that is Berlin. A former South American champion at half-marathon, he and da Costa are part of a strong, experienced Brazilian contingent.

Number 28: Makhosonke Fika
South Africa (b. 20 January 1973)
Marathon best : 2:10:39

Gradually South Africas distance runners are building a strength in depth which is drawing them closer to their counterparts in Kenya and Ethiopia. Fika is one of their most experienced, and that experience includes a personal best in finishing eighth in Paris in 1999 and only eight seconds slower for seventh in Berlin two years ago. Twice a top ten finisher in Fukuoka and Boston, he was runner-up in Singapore last December. The time was 2:19:54 behind the winner, Kenyan Joseph Riri, but consider this statement from American Olympian Mark Coogan, a 2:09 man, running his farewell marathon in Singapore but struggling in temperatures of 30 degrees centigrade and 80 % humidity : "That was the hardest marathon Ive ever done, the winners time was worth a top ten finish in a race like Boston." Whatever the weather in Berlin, Fika should be able to cope!

Number 11: Laban Kagika
Kenya (b. 17 July 1978)
Marathon best : 2:10:24

In these days of frequent sub-2 hour 10 mins marathons, the fact that Kagika ran 2:10:24 for his debut does not automatically warrant a second thought. But consider the background : in what was heralded as a re-match of the World Championship marathon in Edmonton the same year, the gold and silver medallists Gezahenge Abera of Ethiopia and Kenyas Simon Biwott went to the start line of the 2001 Fukuoka race, as did Kagika for his marathon debut. It was home territory of a kind, since he runs in Japan for the NKK club. At 35km, Kagika led by nine seconds over Abera, Biwott and Japans Koji Shimizu. A kilometre later, the trio caught him before Abera produced another of his home straight finishes to beat Biwott. But Kagika finished fourth, showing he had the ability for the big occasion. He was in solid form in Tokyo this February, running 2:10:43 for fifth place.

Number 12: Kazuhiro Matsuda
Japan (b. 24 June 1974)
Marathon best : 2:10:24

Only seven seconds outside his personal best when finishing sixth in Berlin last year, Matsuda has shown signs that a sub-2:10 performance is within his grasp in 2003. Sharpening his speed, he ran his fastest ever for 10 miles at Himeji in Japan in February, clocking 47:40. Its at Lake Biwa where hes been at his best so far : this race traditionally forms part of the trio of trial events for the Japanese Olympic or World Championship marathon team and Matsuda was fourth in 1999 and produced his fastest to-date a year later for fifth. In early July he was again on form, taking second in the Sapporo half-marathon, one of his countrys elite road races, in 64:30.

Number 18: Hyung Jae-Young
South Korea (b. 24 February 1971)
Marathon best : 2:11:34

After setting a personal best to win in Jeonju in March, 1999, Hyung produced a solid 2:11:39 performance for victory the following year in Gunsan. Hes not reproduced that kind of standard since in terms of time, but was runner-up in the National Games in Gunsand two years ago and ran 2:18:36 for third at the same venue in April this year.

Number F3: Renata Paradowska
Poland (b. 14 June 1970)
Marathon best : 2:27:17

Any runner who has two places in the top ten of the Boston marathon, including runner-up spot in her personal best in 1998, is high quality. Formerly known as Renata Sobiesak, she returned from having a baby in 2002 to finish fifth in Hamburg this April in 2:29:17. The "Hansastadt" is where she recorded her major international win at the distance, winning in 2:29:27 in 1997 in the city on the Elbe. She was also eighth in Chicago in 1999 on a course that though it contains plenty of sharp corners, is renowned as super fast. Second fastest in the field behind Germanys European bronze medallist Sonja Oberem, Paradowska has a fine tradition of female Polish runners in Berlin to follow : Renata Kokowska won a hat-trick of titles, the first of her trio coming in 1988 before further success in 1991 and 1993. A decade further on, going close to Kokowskas Berlin best of 2:26:20 in the last of her victories might make Parakowska more than a match for any of her rivals.

Number F4: Alina Ivanova
Russia (b. 16 March 1969)
Marathon best : 2:25:34

The 1991 world 10km walk champion who has switched speciality to become a fine distance runner. 14 years ago she was ranked world number one at 3, 5 and 10km walks but suffered the disappointment of disqualification at 10km in the 1992 Barcelona Olympics. Her fastest marathon to-date was in finishing seventh in the 2001 London marathon when the former Berlin champion Tegla Loroupe took the title.The Russian also has experience of the German capital : she was eighth here in in 2000, having won in Prague in 2:27:42 earlier in the year. So the big city marathons strike a chord with Ivanova, and a successful one at that. Another win was in the high humidity of Hong Kong in 1998 and three years before that in Pittsburgh, USA. She returned to competition to this year after having a baby, finishing fourth in Seouls Dong-A marathon in 2:33:52 in mid-March.

Number F6: Ornella Ferrara
Italy (b. 17 April 1968)
Marathon best : 2:28:01

Like quite a few Italian distance runners before and since, Ferrara knows how to peak for the big occasion. She won the bronze at the 1995 World Championships in Gothenburg, despite suffering a stomach problem and the fast late finish of Polands Malgorzata Sobanska. Two years later, she was again strong on the hills of Athens, finishing fifth as Japans Hiromi Suzuki took the world title. Her fastest marathon came in the same year, as she won the 1997 Torino race. The Olympics haven been such a happy hunting ground, finishing 13th in each of the last two Games. Ferraras best for the half-marathon is 71:46 in Torino three years ago, while she took sixth in 72:54 in Berlin in 2001.

Number F10: Yasuko Hashimoto
Japan (b. August 12 1975)
Marathon best : 2:29:37

On her marathon debut in March this year, Hashimoto shared the lead at halfway in Nagoya, Japan before finishing fifth in a creditable 2:29:37. Moving up from the distance track events and half-marathon on the road, her basic speed, including 32:04.27 for 10,000 metres and 69:32 in winning the prestigious Kagawa-Murugame half-marathon this February, should ensure that her marathon best is soon to be improved by a considerable margin. In a nation renowned for the strength in depth of both men and women distance runners, Hashimoto took ninth place in the 2000 World half-marathon championships in Veracruz, Mexico, helping Japan take the team silver behind Romania.

Number F11: Helena Sampaio
Portugal (b. 9 October 1973)
Marathon best : 2:29:34

It is apt that Sampaio returns to Berlin where she set her personal best for the marathon three years with sixth place. Add to that a fastest half-marathon of 70:15, also achieved in 2000, and the Portuguese should have a say in who will be on the womens prize-giving podium. Like so many distance runners from her country, men and women, she has come up the traditional route, combining cross-country, road and track before moving to the marathon. Her best performance in cross-country has been eigth in 1999 World Championships as well as sixth in the 2001 European event. As extra incentive, Sampaio can target the fastest run in Berlin by a Portuguese. The current mark is 2:26:49, when Albertina Dias finished runner-up to Polands Renata Kokowska ten years ago.

Number F31: Ana Dias
Portugal (b. 15 January 1974)
Marathon : debut

After proving her championship worth in track and cross-country, Ana Dias is following the example of her countrywomen, not least the 1988 Olympic marathon champion Rosa Mota, and turning the classic distance on the road. A silver medallist at 5,000 metres in the 1999 World Student Games, her best of 31:38.48 for 10,000 metres when finishing third in this years European Challenge in Athens shows there is plenty of potential at the longer distances. Helping the Portuguese team to fifth place, she was 26th in the World Cross-Country long course race in Lausanne this March. Since 1999 in Seville, shes been a finalist in the World Championship 10,000 metres and also in last years European Championships in Munich.


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