African safari on B'lore streets

World 10K: Defending champ Merga faces tough challenge

African safari on B'lore streets

Fun run: Olympic gold medallist Shawn Crawford jogs along with young Karnataka athletes at the Sree Kanteerava stadium in Bangalore on Saturday. DH Photo/Kishor Kumar BolarIn two years, the World 10K has established itself as a popular stop for leading runners, and the field for the third edition bears out that fact, with terrific talent from two super powers of long-distance running – Kenya and Ethiopia – lining up again.

Up for grabs is a total prize money of US$155,000 with the winners in the men’s and women’s sections receiving $21,000 each. Money, though, is only a part of the deal, with pride being a dominant factor in dictating the course of the competition.

Indeed, the legacy of distance running in the African nations has been built on a foundation called pride, with team-running tactics coming to the fore time and again as runners fight to protect their country’s reputation.

It will be no different on Sunday in Bangalore in the Elite 10K race. Ethiopians and Kenyans abound in the list of 23 but Uganda and Tanzania too have representatives hoping to have their say.

Ethiopia’s Deriba Merga heads the list as he looks to defend the title he won convincingly last year, with Kenyans Wilson Kipsang and Ugandan Moses Kipsiro among the challengers.

There are other worthy rivals down the list too, promising a battle royale in the men’s race, though there was some concern on the eve of the race, with Merga and four other Ethiopians getting stuck in Dubai en route to Bangalore. They landed in the City only late on Saturday and will need a quick recovery to put in their best on the race day.
Merga built up a reputation of being a Kenyan-slayer with wins in the Houston and Boston Marathons last year. But it has been a different story this year as he slipped to a third-place finish in Boston. He arrives in Bangalore with a desire to put his season back on the winning road.

Classy challenger
He won’t have it all his way though. Kipsang, fourth last year, is a classy challenger, having finished third on his marathon debut in Paris last month, while Tanzanian Fabiano Joseph, the former world half-marathon champion, is determined to put his best foot forward here. Ethiopia, however, have an ace up their sleeves in Tadese Tola, the winner in Paris who has a 10K best of 27:48.

The women’s race is set to witness a repeat clash between Elvan Abeylegesse and Grace Momanyi, who were joint winners in the first edition after clocking identical timings of 32:02.

Turkey’s Elvan, a former Ethiopian, went on to enhance her reputation, winning silver medals in both 5000 and 10000M at the Beijing Olympic Games and she should start favourite in the Elite women’s field of 22.

Defending champion Aselefech Mergia, who went on to win the bronze in marathon at the World Championships last year in Berlin, and Kenyan-born Dutchwoman Hilda Kibet are others eyeing a big slice of the price pie. The cool weather of the last few days gave way to a sultry morning on Saturday, and that will be a worry for the runners targetting fast timings. Zersenay Tadesse’s event record of 27:51 in the men’s section — set in the first year — could still face a threat, given the classy field on view here.

Race facts

 World 10K: Elite Men: 7:10 am.
 Wheelchair event: 7:15 am.
 Senior Citizens Run: 7:23 am.
 World 10K Elite Women: 8:00 am.
Open 10K: 8:10 am.
 Majja Run: 9:00 am.
Prize money: World 10K (overall finishers, both men and women): I: $21,000; II: $12,000; III: 8,000; IV: 6000; V: 5,000; VI: 4,000; VII: 3000; VIII: 2,000; IX: 1500; X: 1000.
Top Indians: I: Rs 150,000; II: Rs 125,000; III: Rs 100,000; IV: 80,000; V: 60,000; VI: 50,000; VII: 45,000; VIII: 40,000; IX: 30,000; X: 20,000.

 

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