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Dutch pledge for Utrecht's Mutai

NAIROBI, Kenya, April 28- Nairobi based Dutch businessman, Gert- Jan van Wijk has guaranteed to assist John Mutai Kipkorir further his career for finishing second in the controversial Utrecht Marathon.




Van Wijk told Capital Sport he will award Mutai 4,950 Euros (Sh118,800) one off pay-out with a similar amount going to a local charity Good News Centres Kenya.

Following the furore raised after Utrecht Marathon organisers stated they would pay overseas runners 100 times less than Dutch athletes for winning the men’s race, the businessman had promised to pay out the prize difference in the event a foreigner claimed victory.

“There was no international winner so that pledge did not take place. The decision to pay Dutch runners 10,000 Euros for winning and international runners 100 Euros was basically a simplified policy to ensure a Dutch runner won.

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“If you organise an international marathon, you need to offer similar prize arrangements to winners regardless of their nationality, so that is why I decided to make the pledge,” van Wijk said.

He claimed circumstances under which Mutai finished second to Dutchman Michel Butter in the race were appalling, informing his decision to support the runner-up’s career.

“The conditions under which he had to run were very different from the conditions for Dutch runners. John didn’t get professional entry and he had to start among the recreational runners, did not get drink support after 30K and the camera crew didn’t follow him when he was in the lead between the 30k and 41k.

“That was strange, it really made it clear it was only a Dutch battle not an international battle at all. I will not give out second prize but I will support John’s career and give him half-prize he would have won the race.”

Van Wijk expressed concern the 2011 Utrecht Marathon incident was a pointer to a trend that could emerge in second-tier classic distance events as organisers attempt to shield European runners.

“First of all, the big marathons will not punish excellence simply because they want an excellent marathon. An excellent marathon means they must have East African runners there, so my hopes are not bad for Kenyan and Ethiopian runners.

“The real issue comes in the second and third level marathons like Utrecht where they may start to protect European runners. That is a deplorable development for Europe or any other country attempting to do so.”

He however, stated the aim of supporting development of Dutch athletes by Utrecht organisers who did not offer starting or bonus money was understandable since it leveled the playing field but the spirit should have been sustained in the prize money stakes.

“It’s a bit of a tough game and I think it always happens when people feel they are not that strong and it is a sign of weakness,” he added.        

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Butter received 10,000 (Sh1.2m) Euros for the win while Kipkorir earned only 100 Euros (Sh12,000) for second. Mutai ran 2:17:37 for second 36 seconds behind the winner.

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