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Tergat and Prokopcuka Back to Defend Titles at the ING New York City Marathon 2006

2006-07-20

Paul Tergat at the closest finish ever in a marathon at last year's ING New York City Marathon.
© Victah Sailer

ING New York City Marathon defending champions Paul Tergat of Kenya, the world record-holder who captured the New York title last year in the closest finish in race history, and surprise winner Jelena Prokopcuka of Latvia will return to the 2006 race on Sunday, November 5, it was announced today. New York Road Runners president and CEO and race director Mary Wittenberg made the announcement at a special news conference in advance of the IAAF Golden League Golden Gala track meet. Wittenberg was joined by Tergat; Prokopcuka is training in Switzerland and could not attend.  

 
In his ING New York City Marathon debut last year, Tergat beat defending champion Hendrick Ramaala of South Africa by just one second, in a time of 2:09:30.  

 
“Last year’s win by Paul was one for the ages, and he has forever etched his name in the rich history and tradition of the ING New York City Marathon,” said Wittenberg. “He comes back with high expectations on his shoulders to join a select group of back-to-back champions.”   Tergat, 37, is bidding to become the first repeat champion since John Kagwe of Kenya in 1997 and 1998, and one of only five men—including Alberto Salazar and Bill Rodgers—to win two or more consecutive New York City Marathons.  

 
Tergat, who set the marathon world record of 2:04:55 in Berlin in 2003, returns to New York after finishing fourth in the Lisbon Half-Marathon this past March in 59:42. One of the favorites heading into April’s Flora London Marathon, Tergat withdrew the week before the race with a calf injury.   

 
“I was probably in the best shape of my life when I had to pull out of the Flora London Marathon just a few days before the race, and I was not sure I would be ready to return to New York. After a difficult time following London, I now feel 100 percent ready and I am excited to come back to New York to defend this title,” said Tergat, who will be making his first start of the year in a World Marathon Majors event.  

 
Prokopcuka, 29, held off Susan Chepkemei of Kenya in the final 500 meters to win the ING New York City Marathon 2005 in 2:24:41. She has excelled in 2006 with a runner-up finish at the Boston Marathon (2:23:48) in April, which ties her for third place on the World Marathon Majors series leader board, and victories in two 10K races: the BUPA Great Edinburgh Run (32:25) and the BUPA Great Manchester Run (31:33). Prokopcuka finished second at the Circle of Friends New York Mini 10K (31:34), a NYRR event, in June.

 
“I am full of anticipation to try to win again,” said Prokopcuka. “I respect my competitors, but I am not afraid of them, because I am feeling I am strong enough to beat everyone on the ING New York City Marathon course.”  

 
Prokopcuka will face American record-holder and Olympic bronze medalist Deena Kastor, who announced on June 19 that she will run this year’s race.  

 
“After last year’s thrilling finishes, we are excited to welcome back both of our defending champions and look forward to them giving us more memorable moments on the world’s greatest running stage, the ING  New York City Marathon,” said Wittenberg.

 
Tergat, Prokopcuka, Kastor, and American Olympian Dathan Ritzenhein, a first-time marathoner, are the first professional athletes announced for the ING New York City Marathon 2006, one of five events in the World Marathon Majors series that showcases the sport’s top athletes and awards an unprecedented $1 million champion’s prize. The WMM series also includes the Boston Marathon, the Flora London Marathon, the real,- Berlin Marathon, and the LaSalle Bank Chicago Marathon. 

 

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