London debut for Cheruiyot, Sumgong to defend crown
Olympic 5000m women champion Vivian Cheruiyot will make her full-marathon debut in London on April 23, organisers of the World Majors race announced on Tuesday.
Cheruiyot is in the elite women list of the Virgin London Marathon where she will take on the might of defending champion and fellow Rio 2016 gold medallist, Jemimah Sumgong among other stars in the loaded field.
Having won her first ever Olympics title that followed taking the women 10000m silver behind Ethiopian Almaz Ayana in Rio, the ‘Pocket Rocket’ made a winning half marathon debut in South Shields where she stopped the clock in 67:54 on September 11 last year.
This is after announcing she had ended her track career to focus on road running where she is hoping to replicate the form that has seen her crowned a four-time world champion besides collecting the IAAF World Cross title in Punta Umbria, Spain in 2011.
While the men’s elite field announced earlier had a strong Ethiopian presence led by their track legend and Berlin winner, Kenenisa Bekele, the women’s race is billed as an internal competition for glory among the cream of the Kenyan crop.
Besides Sumgong, two-time London winner, Mary Keitany returns for a third London crown with Chicago titleholder, Florence Kiplagat and the silver medallist at the 2015 IAAF World Championships, Helah Kiprop also in the mix.
Sumgong defied the odds last April when she recovered from a bruising fall and an invasion from a deranged fan to beat the world’s best in the British capital with a devastating finish.
The 32-year-old went on to make history in Rio when she became the first Kenyan woman to win Olympic marathon gold.
Sumgong defeated Ethiopia’s world champion Mare Dibaba in Brazil to confirm her status as the world’s number one marathon runner of 2016.
Dibaba, who won bronze in Rio behind Bahrain’s Eunice Kirwa, will be one of Sumgong’s main rivals in London from a field containing four women who have broken the iconic two hours 20 minute barrier and no fewer than nine who have run quicker than 2:22.
“London is the marathon every runner wants to win,” said Sumgong. “I can’t wait to return to defend my title.”
The line-up announced on Tuesday includes all three medallists from last year’s London Marathon, three of the top five finishers from the Rio Games, four previous London Marathon champions, and the winners at last year’s Abbott World Marathon Majors races in Tokyo, Berlin, Chicago and New York.
The quickest on paper is Keitany who will be aiming to become only the fourth woman to win the London three times after completing a hat-trick of New York titles last November.
Keitany became the second fastest women marathon runner of all time when she won her second London Marathon in 2012 in 2:18:37.
But after finishing runner-up in 2015, the African record holder could only place ninth last April after she was involved in the collision that brought down Sumgong.
That cost Keitany a place on Kenya’s Rio team and the 35-year-old will feel she has something to prove.
“I love running in London,” said Keitany. “After the sickness I had before the race and the fall last year during the race, I want to show everyone what I can do. My goal is to win the Virgin Money London Marathon for the third time and to demonstrate to everybody that I could have won the Olympic Games last year if I had been selected.”
The domestic competition for Kenyan runners will be fierce as the elite line-up also includes Kiplagat, the Chicago champion and half marathon world record holder who was third here last year and second in 2014; last year’s Tokyo Marathon champion Kiprop.
The quintet of quality Kenyans is matched by a five-strong Ethiopian contingent that is equally impressive.
Mare Dibaba, who finished sixth last year, is joined by her namesake Tirunesh Dibaba, the triple Olympic and five-time world track champion, who finished third on her marathon debut in London three years ago.
Others are the 2015 London champion Tigist Tufa, who was second here last year; three-times Berlin Marathon champion Aberu Kebede, who has also won the Frankfurt, Tokyo and Rotterdam marathons; and the 2010 London champion Aselefech Mergia, who has triumphed three times in the Dubai Marathon in recent years.
The 10 east Africans are likely to form the leading pack but they will be chased hard by other athletes with notable pedigrees.
Former European 10,000m champion Ana Dulce Felix ran her best time on the London course, when she was eighth in 2015. The Portuguese international returns this year after placing 16th in Rio.
Former Commonwealth Games bronze medallist Lisa Weightman flies the flag for Australia while Rio Olympian Alyson Dixon will be favourite to win the British battle for World Championship places against fellow internationals Louise Damen, Charlotte Purdue and Susan Partridge.
“This is a stellar field and everyone who is anyone in women’s marathon running will be in London on 23 April,” said Hugh Brasher, Event Director. “We look forward to a fantastic race and the London crowds are certain to be out in force to cheer home the world’s greatest runners.”
-Additional material from race organisers
2017 Virgin Money London Marathon women’s elite field and personal bests:
Jemima Sumgong (KEN) 2:20:41
Mary Keitany (KEN) 2:18:37
Aselefech Mergia (ETH) 2:19:31
Florence Kiplagat (KEN) 2:19:44
Mare Dibaba (ETH) 2:19:52
Aberu Kebede (ETH) 2:20:30
Tirunesh Dibaba (ETH) 2:20:35
Helah Kiprop (KEN) 2:21:27
Tigist Tufa (ETH) 2:21:52
Ana Dulce Felix (POR) 2:25:15
Lisa Weightman (AUS) 2:26:05
Andrea Deelstra (NED) 2:26:46
Maja Neuenschwander (SUI) 2:26:49
Diana Lobacevske (LTU) 2:28:03
Laura Thweatt (USA) 2:28:23
Krista DuChene (CAN) 2:28:32
Kellyn Taylor (USA) 2:28:40
Alyson Dixon (GBR) 2:29:30
Louise Damen (GBR) 2:30:00
Charlotte Purdue (GBR) 2:30:04
Maryna Damantsevich (BLR) 2:30:07
Susan Partridge (GBR) 2:30:46
Tracy Barlow (GBR) 2:32:05
Jenny Spink (GBR) 2:35:57
Yelena Dolinin (ISR) 2:35:59
Tish Jones (GBR) 2:36:13
Barbara Sanchez (IRL) 2:37:14
Hanna Vandenbussche (BEL) 2:38:35
Vivian Cheruiyot (KEN) Debut
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