Chicago champion Chumba unfazed by US Visa hitch


Dickson Chumba celebrates victory at last year's Chicago Marathon. PHOTO/Marathon Majors
Dickson Chumba celebrates victory at last year's Chicago Marathon. PHOTO/Marathon Majors

The resolve of Chicago Marathon champion Dickson Chumba to hold on to his title on Sunday has not been dampened by a visa glitch that saw him arrive late for the party.

Chumba left Nairobi on Thursday after his US Visa was delayed and subsequently missed the pre-race press conference later on Friday as he prepares to face a formidable field in the men’s race led by former champion and course record holder, Tsegay Kebede.

Speaking to Citizen Digital after a light training session in Chicago on Saturday, the 29 year-old two-time World Marathon Majors winner is optimistic he will have a good run adding it was interesting that he was the only elite runner whose visa was not confirmed on time.

“I’m not sure why I was the one whose visa was delayed. I’m yet to meet with the people who are responsible.

“Whether it was intentional or not, I will not let anyone take the title from me easily. I came here with one purpose and that is to take the title and go home a champion, nothing less,” the champion.

Chumba who trains at  2RunningClub and coached by Italian coach, Claudio Berardelli  arrived in Chicago on Friday morning leaving him with only a day to rest before the race.

“I do not feel jet lagged. I’m even from a morning run with Florence (Kiplagat) and other Kenyan athletes. My body feels alright and ready for action. I hope tomorrow (Sunday) will be fruitful and bring home both titles from the men and women side,” the 2014 Tokyo Marathon champion assured.

Last year, Chumba pulled away in the final three miles to lead a Kenyan sweep of the podium last year in 2:09:25, with Sammy Kitwara second and Sammy Ndungu third.

It was the slowest time in Chicago since 2007 after organizers opted not to use pace-setters.

The 29-year-old Chumba, who finished third in Tokyo in 2:07:34 in his only prior marathon this year, is expected to face a strong challenge from Ethiopia’s Kebede, whose 2012 time of 2:04:38 was a personal best and then-course record.

Kebede is also remembered for a thrilling 2010 duel in Chicago with Sammy Wanjiru, who emerged with the victory.

World record-holder Dennis Kimetto was initially scheduled to race but was forced to withdraw due to a leg injury.

Three other men in the field have run 2:07 or better, including Ethiopian Abayney Ayele — who clocked 2:06:45 in Dubai this year — and Chumba’s fellow Kenyans Abel Kirui and Micah Kogo.

Kogo is still seeking a first marathon victory. He set his personal best of 2:06:56 in finishing fourth in Chicago in 2013.

Another intriguing challenger is Kenyan Stephen Sambu, making his marathon debut.

Sambu, who has been outstanding in shorter distance road races since graduating from the University of Arizona in 2012, warmed up for the event with a victory in the seven-mile Falmouth Road Race in August.

In the women’s race, Kiplagat will try to become the first woman to win back-to-back titles since Berhane Adere of Ethiopia in 2006 and 2007.

Kiplagat made her decisive surge in the 25th mile last year to pull away from Ethiopians Yebrqual Melese and Birhane Dibaba.

Fellow Kenyan Edna Kiplagat, who is the only other woman in the field to have run faster than 2:20, will make be running in Chicago for the first time, as will Ethiopian Gulume Chala.

The other former champion in the field is Atsede Baysa, who won in Chicago in 2010 and 2012, while Melese returns vying to improve on her runner-up finish of last year.

Paris Marathon winner Visiline Jepkesho, who represented Kenya at the Rio Olympics, is also in the field.

-Additional reporting by AFP

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