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The London Olympic Marathon gold medalist, the Ethiopian Tiki Gelana, is favoured to win the Nagano half marathon event on Saturday Feb. 2, 2013. Former World Champion, Kenyan Abel Kirui is the men’s favorite, although he is debuts in Nagano.
Nagano defending champion Tiki is not only expected to retain her title, but also anticipated to set a new course record, improving her time of 68:48 clocked last year. The national marathon record holder with a time of 2:18:85, Tiki is in her best form and has apparently made event organizers simply forget how strong her competitors are; Holland marathon record holder Kim Smith, 2010 Australian 10,000 meter champion Niki Chapel and Portugal’s Marisa Baros. Among the elite athletes, there are some big names from Japan, who are expected to mount some serious challenges to Tiki title. World champion 5th spot Yukis Akaba, who came in fifth at the World Championships and Osaka marathon champion Yomiko K. Harama, are the ones who will make the bid for the title, backed by home fans.
Two-time winner of the World Championships, Abel Kirui is the front runner to win the race, even though it will be his first time to run in Nagano. Although Sandy half Marathon champion Johana and half marathon newcomer Enoch Imwambam, both from Kenya, Australian Colin Birmingham and Alistair craig from Ireland are also among the ranks, according to organizers it is Kirui who is hot favorite to win the men’s half marathon, an event that oddly doesn’t feature a single Ethiopian. In the absence of Ethiopian athletes, the race is said to be between Kenyans, who are ready for a medal sweep and Japanese athletes who are expected to spring some kind of surprise, inspired by home fans.