Wanjiru braced for Chicago battle

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CHICAGO, October 8 – Sunday's Chicago Marathon will feature a battle of men's stars between 2009 winner Sammy Wanjiru, reigning London Marathon champion Tsegaye Kebede and Boston Marathon champion Robert Kiprono Cheruiyot.The showdown between elite Kenyan and Ethiopian rivals includes Kenyans Wanjiru, Cheruiyot and Vincent Kipruto, whose career-best time of 2hrs 5mins 13secs is only three seconds off Wanjiru’s best from his 2009 London triumph.

Ethiopians counter with Kebede, 2009 Boston winner Deriba Merga and Feyisa Lelisa, the youngest marathoner to break 2:06:00 with a 2:05:23 at age 20 in April at Rotterdam.

Together the African nations have the nine fastest men’s entrants.

Reigning Olympic champion Wanjiru, who turns 24 next month, broke the tape last year in 2:05:41, breaking the course record by one second in the fastest marathon ever run in North America.

"The Chicago Marathon has a fantastic course," Wanjiru said. "I know there will be good competition and I will be ready for a fast and competitive race."

Kebede, 23, set a personal best of 2:05:18 in a 2009 victory at Fukuoka after taking a marathon bronze medal at Beijing. This will be his first US race.

"After competing in Europe, Asia and my home continent of Africa, I’m looking forward to competing in America for the first time in my life," Kebede said. "After winning London this spring, I feel privileged to compete here in Chicago against some of the best marathoners in the world."

Cheruiyot, 22, shaved 82 seconds off the course record this year to win at Boston in his most recent start at the distance.

"Winning Boston in 2:05:52 gave me confidence that I can run very fast in the marathon," he said. "I’m excited to test myself on a flat and fast course in Chicago. I am extremely motivated to race well. I hope to improve my time."

London and Berlin Marathon champion Irina Mikitenko of Germany has the best time on the women’s side at 2:19:19, 2:12 ahead of second-best Askale Tafa Magarsa, the 2008 Berlin Marathon runner-up.

Defending champion Liliya Shobukhova of Russia, Japan’s Naoko Sakamoto, two-time Paris Marathon winner Atsede Baysa of Ethiopia and her compatriot Mamitu Daska, the reigning Dubai Marathon champion, also figure to contend.

"The depth of talent in the marathon is at an all-time high," race director Carey Pinkowski. "The stage is set for a historic race."

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