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Haile set for Tokyo

TOKYO, January 28 – Ethiopian long distance legend Haile Gebrselassie will lead a strong field at the Tokyo marathon next month as he makes his first major appearance since his cancelled retirement.

The 37-year-old world, who announced his retirement in November last year only to reverse the decision days later, set the world record for the marathon in Berlin in 2008 with a time of two hours, three minutes 59 seconds.

Organisers said his main rivals will include Felix Limo of Kenya, who set his personal best of 2:06:14 winning the 2004 Rotterdam marathon, and Yemane Tsegay of Ethiopia, whose best is 2:06:30 when he finished fourth in the 2009 Paris marathon.

Gebrselassie said a knee injury and his failure to finish the New York marathon earlier in the month were the reasons for his unexpected — and short-lived — retirement from athletics.

The Tokyo marathon on February 27 will be his first major appearance since then.

Kenya’s Paul Biwott and Salim Kipsang are also expected to pose a threat with their best times of 2:07:02 and 2:07:29, while Ethiopia’s Hailu Mekonnen has a best time of 2:07:37.

Other major athletes will be Tadesse Abraham of Eritrea and last year’s Hokkaido marathon winner Cyrus Gichobi Njui of Kenya, while hosts Japan will send Masakazu Fujiwara, Arata Fujiwara and Satoshi Irifune.

The women’s race will include Nuta Olaru of Romania, Russia’s Tatiana Petrova and 2008 Los Angeles marathon winner Tatiana Aryasova, Asmae Leghzaoui of Morocco and Olena Burkovska of Ukraine with local hopes resting on Yoko Shibui.

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