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London Marathon: Stars land safely in UK ahead of Sunday clash

ATHLETICS By Stephen Rutto | September 29th 2020
Two world record holder – Eliud Kipchoge

It is the 40th race and the first elite-only race.

Stars ready to fly Kenya’s flag in London Marathon

Race organisers had made meticulous arrangements to have the marathon stars flown from their countries to the UK.

An Oryx Jet executive Boeing 737-500 landed in London yesterday with Kenyan athletics stars on board, all ready to disembark and shake off the jetlag, in time for the gigantic London Marathon on Sunday.

At about 8:15pm on Sunday, the private jet left the Eldoret International Airport, headed for London, some 7000km away.

Their safe landing in London was an assurance that the world will be treated to the final and perhaps a thrilling world major marathon of 2020 – a year in which the Covid-19 pandemic hit sports and sporting events hard like never before.

The Kenyan team is being led by two world record holders – Eliud Kipchoge in the men marathon category and Brigid Kosgei in the women’s race.

Unlike what would have otherwise been a farewell full of song and dance, just like a reflection of their humility they all radiate, the Kenyan legion only waved at journalists as they boarded the 56-seater jet. And off they went.

As planned, the team landed in London at 7am after picking the Ethiopian contingent led by the second fastest man in the marathon – Kenenisa Bekele in Addis Ababa.

From the corner of Kipchoge’s eyes, one would have wondered what was going through his mind in their flight from Ethiopia.

Just a glance across the aisle towards the direction of Bekele, 38, the three-time Olympic champion on the track, the 11-time World Cross Country champion and the man regarded by many as the greatest distance runner in history, surely gave the Kenyan legend something to think about.

Marathon Champion Eliud Kipchoge boards the Air-plain before leaving the Eldoret International Airport on Sunday evening to participate in the London Marathon.28.09.2020, (Peter Ochieng, Standard

This was not your ordinary flight. On board were two of world’s greatest marathoners of al-time.

Kipchoge, 35, is the reigning Olympic marathon champion and the man who has conquered all before him.

Kipchoge was in October last year treated to a five-star travel to Vienna for the INEOS 1:59 challenge after he was offered Gulfstream G280, one of the fastest aircraft by Great Britain’s richest man Sir Jim Ratcliffe, who sponsored the challenge.

On board was also women marathon’s world record holder Brigid Kosgei and Ethiopian Roza Dereje, the Valencia Marathon champion.

“We arrived at the Stansted Airport in London at 7am local time and by 9am we were at our hotel having breakfast. We are now having some rest, readying for the big day,” Frankfurt marathon champion Valary Jemeli Aiyabei, told Standard Sport yesterday.

Jemeli is the fifth fastest woman marathoner in the elite London marathon entry list.

The Iten-based athlete, who became the first Kenyan woman to win the Beijing marathon in 2018, said it was exciting to have travelled with their Ethiopian nemesis.

“I hope to have a look at the St James Park course on Tuesday (today). My preparations in Iten were good and I hope to do my best,” she said through a telephone interview.

Jos Hermens, the Director of Hermens’ Global Sports Communication agency, which manages Kipchoge had in August described the controlled course as a fast one.

Marathon Champion Eliud Kipchoge, 10.000m Champion Vivian Cheruiyot and team mates at the Eldoret International Airport on Sunday evening.28.09.2020, (Peter Ochieng, Standard]

“It was fast, flat and almost the same as that used in the INEOS 1:59 Challenge,” he said.

Athletics Kenya (AK) President Jack Tuwei said as he bid farewell to the Kenyan stars, hoping for an impressive performance at the Sunday morning race.

“It has been a difficult period for our athletes and as AK, we worked closely with the Ministry of Sports to sensitise them on how they could protect themselves during their training. It will be a unique race, given that there will be no fans but we hope for the best,” Tuwei said at the Eldoret International Airport.

Chief Administrative Secretary for Sports Hassan Noor Hassan said he was glad that all the Kenyan marathoners to the London race tested negative for Covid-19.

“I am confident that the Kenyan athletes will display a good show in London and will do us proud,” Hassan said.


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