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No walkover for Naoko Takahashi

Serious competition for Naoko again: Adriana Fernandez (MEX) in great shape after successful comeback. Kenyan star runners to clash: Simon Biwott up against Moses Tanui.


Japanese Olympic champion Naoko Takahashi is both the superstar of and big favourite to win this year’s 29th real,- BERLIN-MARATHON on 29 September 2002. There must be doubts, however, if she will find it as easy as last year when she distanced the runner-up by more than eight minutes. Whereas last year Tegla Loroupe (KEN) was unable to match Takahashi in any de-partment, there will be a new and promising challenger this time in Mexican runner Adriana Fernandez. Her biggest success so far was the New York City Marathon title in 1999, the year when she also recorded her personal best (2:24:04) in London. That time still seems a good deal behind Takahashi’s world record set in Berlin last year, but Rodolfo Gomez, the Mexican’s coach, is confident Adriana now runs better than ever after having given birth to a child which is why she took a break from competitive running.

Fernandez aims for a time of 2:20 to 2:21, which would put her in the same league as Takahashi. And Fernandez was able to prove her excellent form when she ran the last 10k of a recent half-marathon in Virginia Beach/USA in 32:07. Another strong woman to watch in Berlin will be Alfenesh Alemu from Ethiopia, with a PB of 2:24:29.

A well-known guest from Kenya appears to be the clear favourite in the men’s race: Simon Biwott who surprised everyone by winning here in 2000, has since become a great marathon star winning both Paris and Rotterdam in the process. In the Edmonton World Championships in 2001, though, he had to contend himself with second place after a dramatic finish-straight showdown with Olympic champion Gezaghene Abera (ETH). Despite his remarkable feats one feels that Simon Biwott’s personal best of 2:07:41 still leaves room for improvement.

The Kenyan’s most serious competition should come from compatriot Moses Tanui who is among the most prominent and fast runners in marathon history. His PB dates from 1999 when he finished second in Chicago in a remarkable time of 2:06:16. Tanui feels most at home in the Boston marathon where he was a two-times winner. Having kept a relatively low profile for a couple of years he is now ready to go for glory again, as his Vienna marathon triumph in spring indicated. Biwott versus Tanui in the 29th real,- BERLIN-MARATHON on 29 September – one more fierce duel can be expected.

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