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Nally, Naila star attractions in Pune marathon

Written by: Staff

Pune, Nov 22 (UNI) A record field of 47 top-notch long-distance runners from 14 countries will be vying for honours in the Hutch-sponsored 21st Pune International Marathon to be flagged off here on November 26.

Tanzanian Francis Robert Nally and Russian Naila Yulamanova will be the star attractions.

Nally comes with a robust reputation, having won the gruelling men's race in the Manchester Commonwealth Games in 2002. Naila, who had broken the dominance of the Kenyans by winning the women's 21-km half marathon last year, will defend her title.

The PIMT organising committee, which met under the chairmanship of Mr Suresh Kalmadi, who is also the president of the Indian Olympic Association (IOA), has finalised the list of the long-distance runners who will be matching their strength on Sunday.

PIMT organising secretary Pralhad Sawant, who is also the joint secretary of the Athletic Federation of India (AFI), told a press conference here today that the presence of Nally will definitely pose a challenge to the Kenyans who have been dominating the gruelling 42.195 kms men's race.

Thirty four-year-old Nally had clocked 2:09:32 at the Beling event in Germany in 1996 which has been his personal best. He will face competition from last year's champion Josephat Ndeti of Kenya who clocked 2:19:35. Josephat's country-mate Ambrose Makau was placed third last year with a time of 2:22:26. Ambrose, incidentally, had won the event in 2002 with a time of 2:23:26.

Another Kenyan Douglas Gwandaru, who had won in 2004 with a time of 2:21:22, will be endeavouring for an encore.

The presence of the Ethiopians Gemechu Kebede (best time of 2:10), Abebi Siyoum (best time of 2:13), Kasahun Matewos (best time of 2:13), and Patrick Vairagi (best time of 2:14), along with Swedish ace Said Regragoui (best time 2:14), Russian Paval Teplykal (best time 2:14) and Botswanian Ndabili Bashingili (best time 2:15), will make the going tough for the Tanzanians and Kenyans, Mr Sawant said.

The Indian challenge will be spearheaded by Dattatraya Jaibhai of Bombay Sappers who had finished sixth overall with a time of 2:26:57 last year but was first among the Indian runners. He has the best time of 2:22. The other Indian challengers include Dattatraya's teamates Amarnath (2:26) and Parminder Singh (2:27).

On the other hand, the Army Sports Institute (ASI), Pune, has pinned its hope on the powerful quartet of Room Singh (2:24), Surinder Singh (2:23), L Shanti Kumar (2:26) and Sunder Singh (2:27).

International athlete H A Chinappa of Madras Regimental Centre (MRC) will be the dark horse, having produced his best time of 2:21:56. The other runners, Bipin Kumar and Bipul Shariya from Hyderabad, figure in the same bracket.

The women's field is equally strong and powerful Naila, having clocked 1:15:26 last year, will go all out to better her time. She will face stiff competition from the Kenyans, Tanzanians, and the Ethiopians, besides the Indians.

The Kenyan quartet of Hellen Musyoka, Jane Muia, Cathy Mutwa and Paulin Thitu come with a huge reputation and pose a threat to Naila.

Another Russian, Oksana Khoklova, had finished eighth last year with a time of 84 minutes but failed to equal her best time of 76 minutes.

The Ethiopians will be pinning their hopes on Getenesh Urge who has a personal best time of 70 minutes.

Last year's winner among the Indians -- Madhuri Gurnule, who had finished sixth overall with a time of 1:22:08, is expected to give the run to the foreigners along with Vaishali Chatare (1:17:00), Kamlesh Badhel (1:23:00), Monica Raut (1:17:00), Rohini Raul (1:18:00) and Swati Gurnule (1:22;00), Mr Sawant said.


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