The InterContinental Amstel Amsterdam was the backdrop yesterday for the annual press conference of the TCS Amsterdam Marathon
. The competitors in the 40th edition were introduced in the beautiful Amstel Lounge, which overlooks the course. Wilson Chebet and Bernard Kipyego spoke optimistically about their preparation and their chances this coming Sunday. Among the women, Olympic champion Tiki Gelana and Flomene Cheyech are determined to set the course record. Michel Butter, Abdi Nageeye and Khalid Choukoud are poised to make their Olympic dream a reality.
Chebet and Kipyego, who were present at the press conference, are looking forward to their 42.195 km. Chebet, who won in 2011, 2012 and 2013 and holds the course record of 2.05.36: “Amsterdam has been good to me, and I’m extremely proud of my nickname “Mister Amsterdam”. If the conditions are right I can be successful again in Amsterdam.” Last year Kipyego was the first to cross the finish line, in a personal record time of 2.06.22. “I’m hoping to tighten up my record, and I might even do better than that, who knows.”
Tiki Gelana found success early on in her career in Amsterdam. The 27-year old Ethiopian won in 2011. One year later she took the Olympic gold in London. Le Champion is proud to welcome her to the starting line once more. “I’m going for the course record”, she admitted today. “And I’m also hoping to qualify for Rio here”. Gelana has a personal record of 2.18.58. The course record was set in 2012 by Meseret Hailu and stands at 2.21.09.
Flomena Cheyech also has big plans for the fast IAAF Gold Label marathon. “The goal I have set for myself is to break the course record.” The experienced 33-year old Kenyan ran her fastest marathon in 2.22.44. She already demonstrated she is in excellent shape during a half marathon six weeks ago.
It is a rare treat to have the four strongest Dutch marathon runners, Butter, Nageeye, Choukoud and Koen Raymakers, at the starting line on Sunday. The athletes agree. “Really amazing and very motivating”, says Butter. “We can push each other to the next level”, adds Choukoud. The bar for the Olympic Games in Rio is set at 2 hours and 11 minutes. The trio in the Amstel Hotel is ready.
Butter has been preparing in Kenya, among other places, for the past few months. “All the training sessions have been right on the mark. This is the first time I’ve had a flawless preparation period”, says the 29-year old Castricum native, who ran the Amsterdam marathon in 2.09.58 in 2012. Butter had this to say about his race on Sunday: “The second half will be faster than the first half. I’m running with three very fast runners, so I’m just going to follow those guys. I’ll have to stay caged like a lion as long as possible, and then at 33/34 km I can take off.”
Nageeye radiated self-confidence. “2.08, without a doubt”, the 26-year old athlete concluded. His foundation is high-altitude training in Ethiopia. “I was easily able to keep up during all the training sessions. My teammates there think I can probably do 2.04/2.05. I’m excited about my level of performance and I can’t wait to see the results.”
Choukoud traveled to Morocco to finish up his preparation with high-altitude training. “It went really well.” The 29-year old The Hague native will take off at a half-marathon time of 64.45. “If I make 2.10.59 I’ll be happy. Our goal is to qualify for the Olympics”.
The line-up features a lot of other talent besides the Dutch men. “We have never seen so much talent in one group”, says Jos Hermens from Global Sports Communication. “It’s a large starting line-up with a couple of very fast runners. We’ll have to wait and see how the wind along the Amstel will affect them. It will be an interesting race, that’s for sure.”
The starting line-up this Sunday will feature nine runners whose times are under 2.06.33. Tsegaye
Mekonnen has the fastest personal record with 2.04.32, followed by Markos Geneti (2.04.54) and Jonathan Maiyo (2.04.56). Other favorites include Wilson Chebet, Bernard Kipyego, Abel Kirui, Dadi Yami, Feyisa Bekele and Chala Dechase.
The TCS Amsterdam Marathon, which is organized by Le Champion, reached its registration limit as early as August 9 this year. The organizers are expecting 44,028 participants from no less than 105 different countries.
The start of the TCS Amsterdam Marathon is Sunday at 9:30 a.m. at the Olympic Stadium. The race can be followed live on Sunday in 137 countries, on Eurosport, among other stations, and via livestream at tcsamsterdammarathon.nl.