Kenyans battle Ethiopians in Boston after devastating Paris loss

By Stephen Rutto: Monday, April 15th 2019 at 00:00 GMT +3 | Athletics
Kenya’s Geoffrey Kirui (left) and Ethiopia’s Tamirat Tola. [File]

Kenyan marathoners are taking the battle to Boston Marathon tonight after a devastating loss to their traditional rivals — Ethiopians in the Paris Marathon yesterday.

Abrha Milaw and Gelete Burka won men’s and women’s races in Paris, ending Kenyans’ hope for glory.

Pre-race favourite Kenya’s Paul Lonyangata, who was aiming for a hat-trick of titles in the French capital, finished third.

Milaw set a time of 2:07:05, 20 seconds ahead of his closest competitor, while Burka won the 43rd edition in a time of 2:22:47.

With 2018 women’s Paris champion Betsy Saina not taking part, Burka was the favourite to win the race and she finished five seconds ahead of Azmera Gebru, while Azmera Abreha rounded up an all-Ethiopian the top three.

But the world’s athletics focus now shifts to the USA for the 123rd Boston Marathon today evening with Kenyan elite athletes hoping to reclaim their pride after the humiliation on the streets of Paris.

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Attention in Boston will be on Geoffrey Kirui and Edna Kiplagat as they seek to reclaim the titles they won in 2017, their paces having been affected by bad weather last year.

Kirui won the 2017 title in 2:09.37. The Kenyan contingent is also made up of Lawrence Cherono, a two-time Amsterdam champion and 2012 Boston champion Wesley Korir.

Among those making their Boston debut are men, who ran their personal bests in 2018 including Rotterdam winner Kenneth Kipkemoi and two-time Toronto champion Benson Kipruto.

Leading a formidable field of Ethiopians are two-time Boston champion and 2018 TCS New York City Marathon champion Lelisa Desisa and 2016 Boston winner Lemi Berhanu.

The Boston Marathon will be followed keenly back home in Kenya with Bank of Africa (BOA) hosting its first 2019 “Viewerthon” series with the live airing of the marathon at Stevenice Hydepark Hotel in Kapsabet

BOA will also offer lunch for the first 200 athletes, who register for today’s viewerthon in Kapsabet where the Kenya Revenue Authority will also offer education on customs, taxation and tax returns to the athletes.

The “BOA Viewerthons”, that celebrate the five races of the World Marathon Majors, will also feature the London Marathon on April 28 along with the Berlin, Chicago and New York marathons at various locations in the North Rift towns of Kapsabet, Eldoret and Iten.

“This is the sixth year we are sponsoring the Viewerthon series as part of our commitment to support a Kenyan heritage that is world class athletics. To this end we will identify upcoming athletes who we can sponsor to various marathons across the country and the world,” said Bank of Africa’s Head of Marketing, Jimmi Wanjohi.

Multichoice Kenya is also supporting the World Marathon Majors viewerthons with all races being broadcast on SuperSport.

Kiplagat will lead Kenya’s female elite line-up as she attempts to put the 2018 debacle behind her and repeat her 2017 feat that saw her run away with victory in 2:21:53.

Other strong contenders in the women’s race are previous winners Sharon Cherop, Caroline Rotich, last year’s Paris Marathon champion Betsy Saina and new comer Mary Wacera, who has graduated to the full marathon with great potential.

Cherop said she is ready to finish in a podium spot and that she had relocated her training base from Eldoret to Kararia - a mountainous area in the Marakwet Highlands in preparation for today’s showdown.

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