<p">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
<p">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, Tergatwithdrew 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.
<p">“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,”
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. </p">