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Olympic marathon champion targets world record

April 23, 2009 10:08 IST

Olympic champion Sammy Wanjiru has targeted the men's world record in the London marathon on Sunday (9:45 a.m.) if conditions are favourable and the pace fast.

"My target is to break the world record," Wanjiru told a news conference on Wednesday. "Maybe on Sunday if the conditions and the pacemakers are right."

Kenyans Elijah Kitani and John Kales are the designated pacemakers in the men's elite race and they have been asked to keep the field on two hours four minutes pace for 32 km of the 42.195 km race through the streets of London.

The current world record of 2:03:59 was set by Ethiopian Haile Gebrselassie in Berlin last year.

Wanjiru, 22, became the first Kenyan athlete to win the Olympic marathon when he clocked a Games record 2:06:32 in oppressively hot weather in Beijing last year.

He tuned up for this year's race by setting a Spanish all-comers record of 59:26 to win the Granollers half-marathon on February 4, breaking Gebrselassie's previous mark.

Wanjiru, who attended high school in Japan after winning a scholarship, said he thought the world record could eventually be reduced to two hours.


Race director Dave Bedford has assembled a superb men's field with Kenyan Martin Lel aiming to become the first man to win the world's premier marathon for the fourth time in a row.

Early last year Lel was forced to relocate to Namibia to train following the political violence which erupted in Kenya. After winning the London race he caught malaria and was able to train for a month only before Beijing, where he helped Wanjiru set the pace before fading to fifth.

"What makes London unique is that you are racing against champions, champions of the world, Olympic champions," Lel said.

He was scheduled to have a scan on his hip later on Wednesday after suffering a slight strain in training.

Sunday's race will mark a first marathon for Eritrean Zersenay Tadese, described by the news conference co-ordinator Tim Hutchings as "the most exciting debut in London, perhaps in the world."

Tadese, 27, won Eritrea's first Olympic medal with his third place in the 2004 Athens Games 10,000 metres. He defeated Ethiopia's Kenenisa Bekele in the 2007 world cross country championships and won the world half-marathon championship later in the same year.

A former national cycling champion before turning to athletics after problems with his national federation, Tadese would not predict a likely time on Sunday.

"I am happy with my preparations," he said. " I want 2:05, 2:06. We will see."

John Mehaffey
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