Zersenay Tadesse (ERI) storms to win at 2006 BUPA Great Manchester 10km (© Peter Langdown)
With a total prize purse of US$245,000 being paid by the IAAF, including US$30,000 for an individual victory and US$15,000 for a team win in both the men’s and women’s races, the 1st IAAF World Road Running Championships, Debrecen, Hungary, which take place on Sunday 8 October are sure to provide memorable competitions over 20km.
In the first of our two race previews, we examine the merits of some of the leading players in the Men’s 20km Race…
There is no one on show on Sunday with a greater major championship pedigree than Morocco’s reigning double World Marathon champion Jaouad Gharib. The 34-year-old also has shorter distance credentials having in 2002 taken the silver medal at the World Half Marathon Championships, which was the forerunner to this IAAF World Athletics Series event. Running last weekend in Newcastle, England at the Great North Run, Gharib came fourth in his season’s best for the half marathon (62:41).
None of the rest of the 20km men's field in Hungary can come close to Gharib’s global achievements on the road, though there are a number of athletes who have also scored individual success at the World Half Marathon.
The other individual medallists on show are Martin Sulle of Tanzania (bronze 2003), Eritrea’s Yonas Kifle (bronze 2005), and Mubarak Hassan Shami of Qatar (silver 2005). Sulle has a 20km PB of 58:58 (2002), and Kifle was also fourth at the World Half in 2002, while Shami, the former Kenyan Richard Yatich, has now turned successfully to the marathon, having won in Vienna, Venice and Prague in his first three races at that distance.
Of these three athletes it is Shami’s which resonates the most, as he was involved in one of the most dramatic tactical miscalculations in major championship history in Edmonton last year. The Qatari signalled the win as he neared the finish, only to find himself embarrassingly out-dipped on the line by Tanzania’s Fabiano Joseph.
Gharib’s compatriot, Abdelkader El Mouaziz, at 37 is the oldest man in the field, but in major road race terms as a two-time London marathon winner he is the next most successful globally. Though his 20km PB is only 60:22 and dates back to 2003, his international experience – top-8 finisher in 2000 Olympics and 2001 World Champs – makes him a formidable competitor.
Following the form-guide the favourite to win the inaugural World Road Running title is Eritrea’s Zersenay Tadesse. The Olympic 10,000m bronze medallist has also been successful off the track at major championship level with a second place finish in the long race at the 2005 World Cross Country Championships. The 24-year-old won the Rotterdam Half Marathon on 10 September in 59:16, the fourth fastest time ever run for the distance, and on the way produced a 20km split of 56:17, the third fastest-time ever recorded.
The Ethiopian contingent is a relatively unknown quantity. They are led by their national trials winner Deriba Merga, whose biggest other claim to fame is that he finished third in the 2005 Great Ethiopian Run 10km. However, Solomon Tsige, second in the national qualification race, has some international experience having finished fifth in the 2004 World Half Marathon championships.
The Kenyans have selected a strong side as always, with the best being Robert Kipchumba who has a 20km best of 56:21. The next fastest is Wilfred Taragon, 57:34. These two are respectively the fifth and sixth fastest athletes of 2006 over 20km, while another member of the team, Wilson Kebenei Kiprotich has good career credentials at the half marathon with top-3 finishes in Paris, Milan and Lisbon over the years, and an 8th placing at the World Half in 2004.
Uganda will also field a quality line-up with the 2005 World University Games 5000m and 10,000m gold medallist Wilson Busienei Kipkemei, the standout of the team. Ryan Hall, the national cross country champion, is the headliner of in the squad selected by the USA.
The individual entry of Gibraltar’s Mark Brown should also be noted. Brown is an amputee and no stranger to arduous tasks of endurance, having enjoyed a rich running career that has taken him to three Paralympics.
The hosts Hungary will be hopeful of a good showing from its full selection, though in the main battle for team honours it should be the usual east African powerhouses of endurance, and the Moroccans, and the Qataris who are favourites to medal.
In total athletes from 36 nations have entered to contest the men’s 20km.
Chris Turner for the IAAF