Geremew keen to retain title

Geremew keen to retain title

Weather a concern as Kenyans look to topple the Ethiopian in Bengaluru

Geremew keen to retain title

From the cool comfort of his hotel, Mosinet Geremew cast a glance at the blinding sunshine outside.

“The weather is not good. It’s very hot,” remarked the Ethiopian with a touch of nervousness in his voice.

The reigning men’s champion at the TCS World 10K here on Sunday, Geremew is keen to defend his title but he has a problem or two on his hands.

“The Kenyans,” he said, “they are looking very strong this year. Also, the weather. It was better last year. I don’t like it hot.” 

Twelve months ago, Geremew had broken a hot Kenyan streak in Bengaluru while clinching the Elite men’s race. Of the eight previous editions till then, the Kenyans had won five, all in a row, frustrating their great African rivals. 

Geremew scripted a stunning Ethiopian response last year, making the decisive move late in the race. This time, he reckons the Kenyans will be out to seek revenge, with a bunch of experienced runners in their ranks.

“I am fit and ready,” said the 24-year-old. “But it won’t be easy. The Kenyans will be ready to attack and they have very strong runners here. Patrick Makau, for instance, could be a strong threat,” felt the Ethiopian, referring to the former world record holder in the marathon.

Geremew is coming here on the back of a first-place finish at the Yangzhou half-marathon while he was second at the Houston half-marathon. Having made a brief foray into the track last year — he was fifth at the Beijing World Championships in the 10000M — Geremew still has ambitions of qualifying for the Ethiopian team with good runs at Eugene and Hengelo but right now, his focus is on Bengaluru.

To conquer the race, he has to conquer the Kenyans. Makau, whose world record of 2:03:38 stood for two years from 2011-13, is just one of them. Coming back from injury, Makau, however, may not be the same force and his compatriot Cyprian Kotut could be the one leading the Kenyan charge. Winner of the Paris marathon and half-marathon this year, Kotut brushed off weariness to make the trip to India.

“My personal best timing in the half-marathon came at Delhi Half Marathon. Everytime I compete in a half marathon, I remember this connection to India. It was difficult to recover from Paris but when I heard that I would be running in Bengaluru, my body immediately recovered,” said Kotut.

The runner-up last year, Fikadu Seboka of Ethiopia is also a strong contender in a field featuring 13 elite runners. Seboka’s familiarity with the conditions is an advantage, even though the route is different this time. 

The record in Bengaluru is in the name of Geoffrey Kamworor — 27:44 set two years ago. A straighter course would have meant a chance for a better time but the conditions may have the final say, with the race set for 7:25 am flag-off.

The weather will be more of a factor in the Elite women’s race which will start only at 8:10 am. A classy field of women have been put together this time, including the reigning World Half-Marathon champion Peres Jepchirchir, last year’s World Cross Country champion Agnes Tirop and former world champion in the 10000M, Linet Masai — all Kenyans who have the ability to regain the crown won by Ethiopia’s Mamitu Daska last time.

“There are strong ladies in the field,” acknowledged Jepchirchir, who also felt the humidity will be a big factor on Sunday. “I have never run in such conditions but I have come here to win,” she declared.

Boosting the Kenyan firepower is Gladys Chesir, the fastest in 10K last year and the owner of the world leading time of 30:41 this year. Third last year, Chesir has bigger ambitions this year -- standing out in a Kenyan bunch that looks primed for a triumphant march.