NEW YORK, Sept 17 – Former New York champion Paul Tergat, Martin Lel and defending champion Marilson Gomes dos Santos of Brazil will return to the Big Apple for this year’s race.Forty year old Tergat who last won the race in 2005 and Lel who triumphed in 2007 are part of a stellar cast of athletes invited for the epic marathon.
Other athletes include Hendrick Ramaala of South Africa (2004), Jelena Prokopcuka of Latvia (2005, 2006), and Ludmila Petrova of Russia (2000) in the New York City Marathon 2009 set for 1 November.
Leah Malot will lead Kenya’s charge in the women’s race.
Also announced was the total guaranteed prize purse of $800,000, with a new champion’s bonus of $70,000, so any past champion who wins this year will collect a first-place prize of $200,000.
“This galaxy of champions will be chasing the largest winner’s purse in our history and for several, another spot in our record book,” said Wittenberg. “We know already that they have the strength, the speed, and the smarts to win on the streets of New York, and the question is whether they can find that magic formula again this year.”
Reigning champion Gomes, 32, made history when he surprised a stellar field, including Tergat and Ramaala, in 2006 and became the first South American winner and a hero in his home country. He repeated his victory last year, finishing in 2:08:43.
No man has won consecutive titles in New York since John Kagwe of Kenya won in 1997 and 1998. A third crown would tie Gomes with American running legend Alberto Salazar for the second-most New York City Marathon men’s titles. American Bill Rodgers won the race four times, from 1976 to 1979.
“The New York City Marathon was the race that broke me into the ranks of the world-class marathons, and training to win for a third time is exciting,” said Gomes. “It will be my fourth time in this great marathon, and I believe that I will be ready to defend my title and claim my third victory.”
These athletes join previously announced U.S. Olympians Ryan Hall and Brian Sell, who will both be making their ING New York City Marathon debut in the final race of the 2008-09 World Marathon Majors series.
Lel, 31, is a three-time London Marathon winner (2005, 2007, 2008), setting a then-course record of 2:05:15 in 2008. Earlier this year, Lel won his third Lisbon Half-Marathon, after triumphs in 2003 and 2006. Lel will be eager to return to New York after being forced to withdraw from last year’s event due to injury.
Tergat, 40, is a two-time Olympic medalist and former marathon world record-holder; he finished fourth in last year’s ING New York City Marathon in 2:13:10. He held the world record in the marathon from 2003 to 2007, with a time of 2:04:55, before it was broken by Haile Gebrselassie.
Tergat captured the 2005 crown in the closest finish in race history when he outsprinted Ramaala, the 2004 winner, to win by three tenths of a second.
A four-time Olympian and two-time World Half-Marathon Championships silver medalist, Ramaala, 37, will be competing in his sixth ING New York City Marathon. He captured the marathon title in 2004 with a breakthrough win in 2:09:28, finished second to Tergat in 2005, and finished third in 2007.
Prokopcuka, 33, is a three-time Olympian and will be looking to tie Paula Radcliffe for the second-most New York City Marathons won by a woman. Her most recent marathon was Boston in 2008, where she placed fourth.
Petrova, 41, will be competing in her eighth New York City Marathon after becoming the first Russian woman to win the title, in 2000. She was last year’s second-place finisher and she set a masters (over age 40) world record with her 2:25:43 finish.