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Singapore Marathon: run, cycle swim, ski?

Kelai tracked several of his Kenyan compatriots

2003-12-07

The theory that Kenyan long distance runners could become Nordic skiers was tried out at the last winter Olympics, and found to be little more than a gimmick. After John Kelais win in the Standard Chartered Singapore Marathon on Sunday, we might have a long wait for the first world class Kenyan triathlete.

Kelai is already close to being a world-class duathlete - running and cycling - and is trying to improve his swimming, to make up the triathlon set. But his win in his second home of Singapore means that he may concentrate on running. "Id really like to run one of the big European marathons next, perhaps London," he said after his victory. Kelai, 26 is already unusual in that he is one of the rare runners from the Turkana tribe, nomads from the poor and arid northern part of Kenya. The most famous Turkana is Paul Ereng, 1988 Olympic 800 metres champion. "Paul used to be my coach," said Kelai, who was discovered by a Singapore triathlon group in 2001, when they were training in Eldoret, the heartland of Kenyan running.

Kelai now spends six months of the year in Singapore with Bob Bowness, founder of the Tribob triathlon group. Members were much in evidence on the marathon course on Sunday, wearing John Kelai Support Group tee-shirts.

"John has quickly taken to the bike and is within reach of duathlon world-class times," said Bowness, "but after this run, he may be better off concentrating on the marathon". Kelais first marathon was in this same race last year, when he finished seventh. He won the Penang International Marathon in neighbouring Malaysia in May, but all three of his races have been in heat and high humidity, hence his 2hr 19min 02sec winning time on Sunday.

Kelai earned US$20,000 for his win on Sunday, and says he and his wife Susan will use it on the education of their two girls, Faith, aged three, and Karina, just one month old.

Singapore Marathon Results

The Kenyan colonisation of the athletics world continues. John Kelai won in his home town yesterday, when he took the Standard Chartered Singapore Marathon in 2hr 19min 02sec.

Kelai has been living on and off in Singapore for the last 18 months since coming to the city-state to make his marathon debut - he was seventh in last years race in 2.23.46.

Kelai tracked several of his Kenyan compatriots, who were early leaders in the Sunday dawn race, before taking over after 37 kilometres, and winning by 180 metres from David Simukwo, 2.19.28, and Barnabas Kenduiywo, 2.20.35. "At 32 kilometres, I felt so bad that I almost dropped out," said Kelai, 26, "but I saw the leaders were struggling. At 35k I felt OK, and put in an effort to catch them. I was a bit nervous of my Kenyan friends, but it was an advantage to me to know the course so well". Unlike several of his compatriots who have switched nationality recently, Kelai says he has no plans to apply for Singapore nationality, but he has a solid training base here with a triathlon group, and he recently placed fourth in a high class duathlon (cycling and running) Kelai dedicated the victory to his month old daughter, Karina. He has another daughter, Faith, aged three. Kelai said he would use the US$20,000 prize money, "for the education of my children, and to improve my living conditions in Kenya". He was formerly a farm-worker in Eldoret, the heartland of Kenyan distance running.

The much-vaunted Tanzanians - 2002 Commonwealth winner, Francis Naali, and 1998 medallists, Simon Mrashani and Geway Suja - were never in evidence, after complaining of difficulties adjusting to time difference and Singapores high humidity which affects times.

Wang Yu of China was unconcerned in the womens race. The 19 year old from Beijing led all the way in only her third marathon, to win in 2.43.51. The Poles, Aniela Nikiel and Violeta Uryga were second and third, in 2.46.48 and 2.47.55 respectively.

STANDARD CHARTERED SINGAPORE MARATHON 2003

RESULTS
MEN

BIB NAME COUNTRY TIME PRIZE(US$)

1 84 JOHN KELAI KENYA 2.19.02 20,000
2 08 DAVID SIMUKWO KEN 2.19.28 12,000
3 10 BARNABAS KENDUIYWO (KEN) 2.20.35 7,000
4 46 ANURUDHA COORAY (SRI) 2.21.23 5,000
5 73 ABRAHAM TANDOI KEN 2.23.29 3,000
6 15 JOSEPHAT NDETI KEN 2.24.26 1,250
7 59 DAVID K MENJO KEN 2.24.47 1,250
8 70 SIMON SAWE KEN 2.25.42 800
9 50 ZHU RONGHUA CHINA 2.25.44 800
10 07 JOHN ROTICH KEN 2.26.32 800

WOMEN

1 67 WANG YU CHINA 2.43.57 20,000
2 20 ANIELA NIKIEL POL 2.46.48 12,000
3 18 VIOLETA URYGA POL 2.47.55 7,000
4 63 AI SUGIHARA JAP 2.48.14 5,000
5 21 NATALYA GALUSHKO BLS 2.52.45 3,000
6 26 LILIAN CHELIMO KEN 2.53.59 1,250
7 28 LARISSA MALIKOVA RUS 2.55.05 1,250
8 24 OLPHER ORUKE KEN 2.55.46 800
9 09 SUJEEWA NILMINI SRI 2.56.46 800
10 19 LYDIA VASSIELVSKAYA RUS 3.01.48 800

Pat Butcher


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