Lidia Simon, one of the world’s top women marathon runners of the last
decade, has chosen Sunday’s 21st Vienna City Marathon to qualify for the
Olympic Marathon in Athens in August. Romania’s national qualifying time
of 2:37:00 should be no hurdle for the national record holder (2:22:54). In its
20 year history the Vienna City Marathon has never before seen such a strong
woman runner as Lidia Simon. Sunday’s marathon will once again be
Austria’s biggest single day sporting event of the year. Adding runners
who will participate at shorter distances, organisers of the Vienna City
Marathon expect about 20,000 athletes to take part.
It is nearly three years ago when Lidia Simon celebrated the biggest win of
her outstanding career. The Romanian won the marathon at the World
Championships in Edmonton. A year earlier she had won the Olympic silver medal.
Since neither Olympic Champion Naoko Takahashi (Japan) nor the bronze medal
winner from Sydney Joyce Chepchumba (Kenya) were selected for Athens Simon
could be the only marathon runner with a medal from the previous games. She was
second in 2000 finishing just eight seconds behind Takahashi.
In 2002 Simon interrupted her career due to pregnancy. It was on Christmas
Eve when she gave birth to a son (Cristian). Last autumn she came back to
marathon running, but only finished in a time beyond 2:40 at the Chicago
Speaking at a press conference today the 30 year-old runner said she should
be able to show a much better performance on Sunday: “In general I feel
physically stronger after giving birth. And I hope to run faster times in
future. As for Sunday I will look for a first half of about 73 minutes. That
should be relatively easy for me, so I hope to cover the second half a bit
It will be a tougher job for Sonia Oberem to qualify for Athens, which was
supposed to be her final marathon race. Since the German qualifying standard is
set at 2:30:00 and Oberem had injury problems until April she is not sure
whether her training will be good enough to snatch a very last ticket for the
Olympics. “I remember Vienna well. So it was my first choice to run
here”, Oberem said. The 31 year-old German was third in Vienna four years
ago clocking 2:27:25. Besides her bronze medal from the European Championships
in 2002 she has an extraordinary world championships’ record: Oberem
finished 8th, 7th, 6th and 5th between 1995 and 2001. Additionally she was 8th
at the Olympics in 1996.
In contrast the men’s top contenders will not run for a ticket to
Athens on Sunday. Kenyans Moses Tanui, Raymond Kipkoech, Samson Kandie, Matthew
Sigei and Patrick Chumba are regarded as potential winners. “I hope to be
able to run a sub 2:10 time. My training went very well”, Moses Tanui
said. At 38 years he wants to show that he can still cope with his countrymen.
But there will be a chase for Athens in the men’s race as well.
Austria’s best marathon runner Michael Buchleitner hopes to finish inside
2:13:00 and may be even break the 18 year-old national record. It was Gerhard
Hartmann who won the Vienna City Marathon back in 1986 clocking 2:12:22.