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Olympic Reconnaissance

Assefa sees himself as a scout

2003-10-31

The Athens Classic Marathon on Sunday provides an opportunity for Ethiopian Alemahyeu Assefa to a bit of "homework" ahead of next years Olympic race on the same course. Assefa sees himself as a scout for his colleagues back home in Addis Ababa. "My first objective is to win, of course," said the 32 year old, who ran in the last Olympics in Sydney, "but Im also here to do homework for all the Ethiopians".

Assefa is a member of the national marathon squad, which includes Gezahegne Abera, the first man to win both Olympic and world titles (2000/1). "Ill bring intelligence back to the national coaches, on the rise and fall of the course and the flat parts," added Alemahyeu".

That should be fairly straightforward. This original Olympic course, first run in 1896 from the village of Marathon to Athens is one of the toughest in the world. The first 15 kilometres - which includes a diversion around the burial mound of the soldiers killed in the famous battle in 490BC, which inspired the race - is relatively flat. It then rises gradually for close to 20k, before wheeling down the final 5k into the impressive marble Panathenaikon Stadium, built for the first modern Olympic Games 107 years ago.

Assefa has the fastest of the field, a 2.07.44 in winning Torino two years ago. He says he just wants to win against the dominating Kenyans, led by last years winner, Mark Saina. But one man prepared to stick his neck out and predict a new course record was another East African, Zebedayo Bayo of Tanzania. Another altitude-trained runner, from Arusha, on the slopes of Mount Kilimanjaro, Bayo, 27 said, "I think I can do 2.10 here". The record, which dates from 1969 is 2.11.07, by Britains Bill Adcocks.

Pat Butcher


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