Pune, Nov 29 (UNI) Three former winners -- Kenyans Ambrose Makau (2002), Douglas Guandaru (2004) and Josephat Ndeti (2005) -- are confident of regaining their supremacy despite stiff challenge from their counterparts from Ethiopia and Tanzania in the 22nd Pune International Marathon here on December 2.
The star-studded Kenyans have fielded a strong 28-member squad to provide exposure to their young crop of marathoners. The Ethiopians will have 24 runners.
The seasoned long-distance ace Mukau, who won the race in 2002 clocking 2:23:26, has the best time of 2:08 in his name brought during the Panama event, and he had finished ninth in the Paris world championship.
Country-mate Guandaru, also 33-years-old, had won in 2004 with a time of 2:21:22. After suffering from hamstring cramps, he has come with a three-month preparation and hopes to regain the title. Having clocked 2:13 at the Napoli race, Guandaru sounded optimistic, ''If everything goes well on the day, it will be a different story to tell my two children -- a boy and a girl.'' Thirty six-year-old Josephat Ndeti had won in 2005 with a time of 2:19:35. He also expressed confidence, having prepared well.
Kenyan coach 60-year-old Paul Mutwii, who arrived with ten long-distance runners today, said, ''The weather condition appears quite good and conducive for the gruelling race and there won't be any cause for worry on this count.'' Mutwii said 20-year-old Agnes Mutone, considered to be the best talent, will spring a surprise in the women's half marathon, although last year's winner Hellen Musyoka, who had clocked 1:13:20 and Jne Muia -- the winner of 2004 who has a time of 1:11:59, will be strong contenders.
Tanzanian Oswal Reverien Kuhuruzi and team-mate Naftal Dakho, too, are raring to go. ''It would be a race worthy of the prize money at stake and we will put our best to give the Kenyans and Ethiopians a run for their money,'' they said.
Earlier, Shankar Prasad Shah of Nepal, who arrived here yesterday, also expressed confidence of doing well in the race.